For beginning and experienced graziers alike, soaring land prices and increasingly limited access to land are two of the greatest obstacles to entering livestock farming or expanding an existing operation but they don't have to be. According to grazing expert Greg Judy, leasing land and custom grazing are affordable alternatives that can help aspiring or expanding farmers avoid debt, build equity or grow a business with less risk while building potentially valuable relationships.
"One of the dreams everybody has in America, especially in the livestock business, is owning their own spread and there's nothing wrong with that," says Judy, who runs Green Pastures Farm with his wife, Judy, on 1,400 acres of leased land near Rucker, Mo. "But sometimes I think it's better to lease land and build up your nest egg so you can afford to go out and buy land.
Great way for young people to get started farming because you don't need equity
"It's a great way for young people to get started, because you don't need equity. We wouldn't be debt-free today if I hadn't started out custom grazing. I used other people's land and other people's livestock and that's my advantage."
Judy will teach a workshop on this and other topics at Practical Farmers of Iowa's 2013 annual conference, "Soil and Soul," taking place Jan. 10-12 at the Iowa State Center Scheman Building, on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. The conference is open to the public, and registration is open now. Those who preregister by Jan. 2 will save $10 per day. Register online or by contacting Patrick Burke at [email protected].org or 515- 232-5661. Special rates are available for students and PFI members.
This year's event, which celebrates the vital role soil plays in sustaining life, features several sessions on livestock husbandry, grazing practices and management strategies that can save time, boost profits and build soil health while improving pastures and protecting water quality. In addition to the workshop on leasing land and custom grazing, Judy will teach in-depth workshops on grazing multiple species and mob grazing, a system of high-density grazing where animals are rotated several times a day to small sections of fresh pasture.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
"With mob grazing, we're focusing on putting a lot of litter on the ground," he says. "Litter is anything that's organic, so when plants get mature cattle trample a lot of that onto the ground, which forms mulch and is a great environment for soil microbes and moisture. It's feeding the soil." He adds that, despite "the worst drought in Missouri history," his cattle are still grazing grass while his neighbors "are all grazing hay."
Livestock sessions at the conference include:
* "Leasing Land and Custom Grazing"
* "Mob Grazing"
* "Beginners Talk with Experts: Livestock Enterprises"
* "Succotash Swine"
* "Multi-Species Grazing"
In addition to these conference sessions, there will be a breakfast session on Saturday morning where livestock farmers have the opportunity to collaborate on adding meat and eggs to Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, subscription services. Greg Judy will also host a breakfast session, providing attendees an informal venue to talk with him.
The conference will also feature keynote speaker Elaine Ingham, chief scientist at the Rodale Institute and a world-renowned microbiologist; 18 other in-depth workshops covering topics in field crops, horticulture, local foods and beginning farmers; eight additional Saturday morning breakfast sessions; up to six in-depth "U-Pick" sessions organized around topics suggested by guests during conference registration; and three short courses on composting, farm finances and tractor handling and operation, taking place on Thursday, Jan. 10 and the morning of Jan. 11.
To access the full conference program, registration details or to register online, visit the PFI website.
Practical Farmers of Iowa's 2013 annual conference is supported by several major sponsors including AgVentures Alliance; Albert Lea Seed; Calcium Products, Inc.; Iowa Farm Bureau Federation; Iowa Learning Farms; Iroquois Valley Farms; Iowa State University's Agronomy Department and Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying, Inc.; the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU; Maschio Gaspardo; and Saddle Butte Ag.