Home Grazing Gear Up For Grazing Contents Stocker Opportunities Abound In New York Pastures

Sustainable Farming Connection
Where farmers find and share information.

Stocker Opportunities Abound In
New York Pastures

Virginia-born stockers thrive on cool-season forages.

Bill Tracy is nothing if not enthusiastic about the opportunities to turn a profit grazing Virginia-born stocker cattle on New York pastures. He's so sold on the idea that this year he's shipping in 1,800 head to graze the 800 acres of pasture at Sunrise Farm, Auburn, N.Y.

"We have an unreasonable advantage here over cattle producers in Virginia. They can't believe how much cool-season forage we can produce," Tracy told the audience at the NYPA annual grazing conference in March '96. "It usually rains here and you can pretty much depend on the grass to grow," he explains. "Our cool-season grasses -- especially orchardgrass -- will still produce all season long if kept in a vegetative state, where it's too hot in Virginia for that to happen."

With low-cost production and savvy marketing, Tracy practically guarantees a profit on every trailer load of cattle he ships. "There are acres and acres of abandoned farmland around Upstate New York just waiting to be put to work doing essentially the same thing I do. It's just a matter of more people stepping forward to take advantage of the opportunity," he says.

Here's how Tracy does it:

Differentiate your product. "Find out what the packers want, and then deliver it," he stresses. He grazes Black Baldy steers and heifers (discounted 6 to 10 cents a pound under steers) exclusively, because he knows that they are in demand by Lancaster, Pa., packers looking for premium beef to ship to Japan.

Double-stock early. This year ('96), Tracy will pull his 800 top-producing stockers off pasture in early July and send them to the feedlot (while retaining ownership) where he expects them to put on at least 3 pounds of gain per day. That way he only has to carry 1,000 head through the cool-season forages' summer slump. Last year ('95), he was able to carry 1,200 head through the summer on pasture by grazing 180 head on 40 acres of corn. Heavy stocking early in the season helps him keep ahead of the cool-season forages during their peak growing season, drastically reducing pinkeye problems associated with grazing over-mature grass.

Keep costs low. "The only equipment we need to run this operation is a couple of tractors and some ATVs," says Tracy. He uses the tractors to haul 1,500-gallon water tanks to the pastures so he can keep the stockers out of the ponds.

Ship full trailer loads. To keep freight costs from eating into profits requires that you deal by the trailer load, cautions Tracy. Keep in mind that it will take two loads of 90, 500-pound stockers coming in to fill three trailers of 850-pound stockers going out.

Lock in profits. "Don't ask, 'Can I make money?'" Tracy stresses. "Know that you will before you get started." He does that by calculating production costs and locking in his selling price using the cattle futures market. (See box, "Stocker Cattle Budget," below.)

Stocker Cattle Budget
In this sample budget, Bill Tracy pencils out a profit of $72.50 per head. His $.30-per-pound feed cost includes everything it takes to run the farm, including labor and land costs. In processing includes vaccination, eartags and worming.
per head
In weight: 500 lbs.
Price: $55/cwt.
In cost: $275
Feed cost (@ $.30/lb. of gain) $105
Brokerage and freight $17
In processing $8
Vet cost $5
Other (Interest, death loss, beef board) $19
Total expenses $429
Out weight 850 lbs.
Out price $59/cwt
Total income $501.50
Profit $72.50

Top of Page

Home Grazing Gear Up For Grazing Contents Stocker Opportunities Abound In New York Pastures

©1997 Committee for Sustainable Farm Publishing

Please read about our usage permission policy and disclaimer.

Send comments, suggestions and questions to the site author:
Craig Cramer cdcramer@clarityconnect.com

Coded using HoTMetaL Pro 3.0. Best viewed in Netscape 3.0 or later.
Please see our credits page for more information.