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Range Improvements, Grazing Systems and Net Present Value, What is the Right Balance?

Updated August 11, 2020

Sean Kelly

SDSU Extension Range Management Field Specialist

As farms and ranches across South Dakota continue to endure increasing costs of production while receiving less cash for grain and livestock marketed; ranch managers must be extra diligent when implementing new range improvements and grazing systems on their ranches.

Finding the right balance of increasing efficiency and production while keeping expenses in check is the challenge for every ranch during tough economic times. Some ranches may choose to implement new range improvements such as livestock water pipelines, water tanks, and fences in order to develop a new grazing system or enhance and existing grazing system. A ranch’s grazing system should strive to utilize the rangeland resources more efficiently and possibly increase the stocking rate and carrying capacity of the ranch. Cost-share opportunities on various range improvements are also available from agencies such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

So what is the best combination of range improvements and grazing systems for your ranch? Each ranch is unique and therefore each ranch will have a different combination of range improvements and grazing systems for optimal efficiency. However a ranch manager can follow these guidelines to get started:

  • Complete a resource inventory. For more information on conducting resource inventories.
  • What are the ranch goals? Example: Profitable, maintain or improve natural resources?
  • Must complete a cost/benefit analysis for range improvements.

For more information on conducting resource inventories see: Strategic and Scenario Planning in Ranching: Conducting a Ranch Inventory