11 Mar 2008, 10:45pm
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Expert on grazing land offers predictions, perspectives on cattle

By Mike Surbrugg, CNHI News Service, Midwest City Sun [here]

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Jim Gerrish, a grazing land consultant, recently spoke at a forage conference in Springfield and offered several perspectives for cattle producers and farmers.

Cattle operations in countries that make more use of forages have positive returns despite low prices and they are not hurt by the rising corn prices linked to ethanol production, he said. Gerrish also predicted that in three years ethanol production will collapse.

A former University of Missouri forage scientist, Gerrish said ethanol requires more energy to produce than it provides, is less efficient than unleaded gasoline, hurts the environment by using more land to grow corn and hurts the agricultural economy.

Cattle producers also can buy expensive equipment to make labor more efficient and still lose money making hay, he said. His challenge is not to work hard, but to work smart. Doing this enables some successful ranches in the West to use one employee to care for up to 800 cows by letting cattle eat grass.

“We need cows that work for us, not us for them. Too many cows have an addiction to corn,” Gerrish said.

Functional livestock on any size farm or ranch harvest the grass, spread manure on the land and have calves without help, he said.

“They are your employees. Leave them alone to do their jobs. Let them eat grass. They’re ruminants,” he said.

Maximum use of grass helps the environment, provides a healthier food for consumers and can improve farm income.

“Market your product, your story about your farm and your sincerity. Be honest and believable and look your customers in the eye and tell them how you raise animals and how they are processed,” he said.

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