Contract out wintering said to be a win-win arrangement for both parties

by Allan Nation

CENTRE, Nebraska: Terry Gompert is the University of Nebraska Extension Educator specializing in grazing for northern Nebraska. He also is a part-time cow-calf rancher with 70 mother cows.

Gompert’s “day job” requires extensive travel in the winter months when farm meetings come fast and furious. With many meetings scheduled for Saturdays, there is little spare time to devote to his ranch during the winter.

His solution to this problem has been to out-winter his cows with his neighbor on a per head per day fee basis.

The neighbor raises corn and has more corn stalks available in the winter than his own cows can eat.

He takes in Gompert’s cows from October to March and winters them with his own herd for a base charge of 30 cents a day, which includes minerals.

During severe snow events, the neighbor feeds his home-grown hay and charges Gompert the going market price for it.

Gompert said during the snowiest winter the most it has cost him on average for the whole winter was 43 cents per head per day.

This gives Gompert a total winter feed cost per cow, including labor, of between $40 and $50. (Winter feed costs are the biggest single expense to cow-calf producers.)

“I can’t stockpile my own pastures that cheap,” Gompert said.

This is also a good deal for Gompert’s neighbor as it turns his corn stalks into a resource and gives him a market for his surplus hay.

Since Gompert’s cows are run intermingled with his own, there is virtually no more work for the neighbor.

Gompert said Nebraska was unique in that its winter contract grazing rates were far cheaper than its summer rates, which are in excess of a dollar a day per head.

This is because many corn farmers maintain cowherds just to provide a market for their stalks and do not have permanent pasture on their farms.

“Our cheap wintering costs are our major unfair advantage,” he said.

“We should probably be sending our cows to Missouri for the summer where the (green season) contract grazing rates are much lower.”

REPLACEMENT HEIFERS

Gompert said that the contract out-wintering program worked so well that he now has out-sourced his other major winter headache - replacement heifer development - to the same neighbor.

The heifers leave Gompert’s ranch at weaning in October and are contract grown on alfalfa hay at a day rate of 85 cents. Their average daily gain is around 1.5 pounds per day so the per pound cost is around 57 cents.

This contract price includes A-I breeding.

The heifers are A-I’d in June for April calving (a month before the mature herd).

Once they are proven bred, they are returned to Gompert.

“This arrangement not only makes my winter life easier but allows me to use A-I. This has allowed me to start producing my own bulls for my herd.” He plans to go to all home-produced bulls.

“Of course, what I really like is that I now have a totally green season operation. The cows calve in May. I work the calves at two weeks of age and then forget about them. “Contract production solves my problems and provides more income for my neighbor. It truly is a win-win situation for both of us.”

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