Swath Grazing Calculator Manual  

1. Introduction to the Swath Grazing Calculator
    Background

Defaults

Cost Override

Crop Comparisons

Saving Data
2. Gathering Information
3. Entering Your Animal and Feed Production Information - Screen 1

General Production Information

Swath Grazing Information

Conventional Feeding Information
4. Enter Your Cost Information

Cropping Costs - Screen 2

Swath Grazing Costs - Screen 3

Conventional Winter Feeding Costs - Screen 4
5. Annual Feeding Summary - Screen 5
6. Final Report - Screen 6
7. Getting More Information
8. Acknowledgements


1. Introduction to the Swath Grazing Calculator

Background

The swath grazing calculator is designed to provide a cost comparison between conventional wintering feeding systems and swath grazing. Conventional winter-feeding refers to those feeding systems in which feed is harvested and then stored at a central site for winter-feeding. Chopped silage, bale silage and baled green feed are the options available for stored winter feed.

The calculator addresses the question of whether an annual forage crop can provide a greater economic benefit if it is managed as swath grazing versus being harvesting as a conventional winter-feed source

The calculator is comprised of five screens. The first four screens require data input that covers forage yields, feed requirements, length of winter feeding period, crop production costs, swath grazing costs, conventional winter feeding costs and machinery depreciation costs.

The fifth screen provides a summary in the form of cost comparison between the two winter feeding systems. One system incorporates swath grazing as part of a winter-feeding program. The second feeding system is based solely on the use of a conventional winter-feeding program. Costs are reported on a head-per-day basis and as a total herd cost for the winter feeding period for the two feeding systems.

The cost information for the two winter feeding systems can be now used to evaluate whether swath grazing can provide an opportunity to reduce your winter-feeding costs.

For the purposes of this calculator, the crop choices for the swath grazing and the conventional feed production should have similar production costs. To permit a comparison of production costs, the number of seeded acres will be the same for the swath grazing project and the conventional winter feed production.

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Defaults

On input Screens 2 through 4, the option is provided to use either individual farm costs or to use “provincial benchmarks”. Select “Go to Report Summary” at the bottom of the production information page to use the provincial benchmarks costs for the crop, swath grazing and conventional feeding screens.

If you select “Enter Your Own Costs” the option is available to enter individual farm costs (where available) or to use the “provincial benchmarks” that are provided.The use of individual farm costs will increase the accuracy and value of the annual feeding summary report provided on screen 5.

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Cost Override:

On Screen 5, Annual Feeding Summary, an option is available to adjust conventional winter feed costs. Remember, the calculator is using the silage or green feed production costs as a baseline for your conventional winter-feeding costs. Since other feed sources are often used in combination with silage or green feed, the costs for the conventional winter-feeding program maybe higher or lower than those indicated on screen 5. Use the “Cost Over-ride” to adjust your conventional feeding costs based on either the crop costs or feeding costs.

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Crop Comparisons:

This calculator is limited to one set of crop production costs. Therefore it is important to compare crops with similar production costs and management practices for swath grazing and conventional winter feed production.

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Saving Data:

Print a copy of your input screens and results for future reference. Data cannot be stored on this site.

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2. Gathering Information:

To use the swath grazing calculator you will need to provide information or estimates that relate to both your livestock operation and your cropping program. The following list can serve as a guideline to the type of information required.

  • Number of livestock to be grazed
  • Average livestock weight
  • Number acres to be swath grazed
  • Length of normal winter feeding period
  • Feed waste levels for both swath grazing and conventional feeding systems
  • Crop yields for both swath grazing and conventional feed production
  • Crop production costs
  • Swath grazing costs
  • Conventional feeding system costs
  • Winter ration costs for conventional feeding program
  • Machinery and equipment used in swath grazing, crop production, crop harvest and winter feeding
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3. Entering Your Animal and Feed Production Information

General Production Information:

In this section enter the number of livestock to be wintered, the length of your normal winter feeding period, number of acres that will be seeded for swath grazing, and the average weight of the livestock being wintered. An estimate of daily feed requirements will be calculated for you. To reflect winter-feeding, the calculator uses 2% of the average animal weight to provide an estimate of daily feed requirements (dry matter) on a per animal basis.

The feed requirement number, Lbs DM, will be used in the Swath Grazing and Conventional Feeding Information sections to determine both grazing days and conventional feeding days.

**Remember that the acre estimate provided for the swath grazing project will be the same number of acres used for the conventional feed production system.

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Swath Grazing Information:

In this section enter the estimated crop yield (tonnes/acre) for the swath grazing crop and the moisture content at the time of grazing. Also, enter an estimate for feed wastage at the end of the grazing period. In swath grazing, feed wastage can vary from a low of 20% in controlled grazing systems to a high of 50% if continuous grazing systems are used. Waste levels can be reduced via controlled grazing and by re-grazing during the spring.

Fertility costs for swath grazing are entered as a percentage of the fertility costs for the conventional feed production system. In swath grazing, manure build-up can provide a significant supply of nutrients for the next swath grazing crop. The degree to which swath grazing can lower fertility costs really depends on the alternate winter feeding option. For example, if the stored winter-feed source is fed out on the cropland then swath grazing provides little advantage in terms of placing manure in the field and providing fertility to future crops. On other hand, swath grazing could have costs advantage over a winter-feeding system where feeding occurs at a central location and the manure is returned to the cropland at a later date. Use soil tests to verify whether swath grazing fields will require less fertility than conventional feed production fields.

The calculator will provide an estimate of the number swath grazing days available. This estimate is based on the daily feed requirement (number of animals x lbs DM per day), number of seeded acres, expected crop yield, crop moisture content and estimated feed wastage. A new projection for the number of available swath grazing days can be obtained by adjusting any input information in the Animal or Swath Grazing sections.

Remember, the seeding dates for cereal crops can have a significant impact on forage yields. Swath grazing crops are often seeded several weeks later than conventional green feed or silage crops. As a result, forage yields for swath grazing can be 20% to 30% lower.

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Conventional Feeding Information:

In this section please select a one type of conventional winter-feeding system. This selection will be used in comparing conventional winter-feeding costs with the swath grazing system. Three options are available, chopped silage, bale silage and baled hay. The type of feeding system selected will be reflected in Screen 4, “Conventional Winter Feeding Costs”.

Enter an estimate of feed waste with the conventional feeding system along with a crop yield and moisture estimate. Enter the crop yield for both chopped and bale silage as wet tonnes/acre. For green feed, enter the crop yield as a hay equivalent. Based on the moisture content of both the silage and the green feed, the calculator will estimate the amount of dry matter available for feeding.

The calculator will estimate of the number of conventional feeding days available. This is based on expected crop yield, moisture content, feed wastage and the daily feed requirement for the number of livestock being wintered. Altering the input numbers for any of these factors will result in a new projection for the number of conventional feeding days. Remember the daily feed requirement is entered in the “General Production Information” section.

For the purposes of this calculator the same number of acres are used for the swath grazing project and for the conventional feed production system. To permit a cost comparison, the crop choice in the conventional feed production system should be similar to crop selected for the swath grazing project.

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4. Enter Your Cost Information

Cropping Costs (Screen 2)

In this section both variable and fixed costs for crop production are entered. The costs in this section will be used for both the swath grazing project and the conventional feeding systems. With the exception of fertilizer, all other input costs will be same for both production systems. Remember fertility costs can be adjusted for swath grazing on “Screen 1”

Cropping costs can be entered on a per acre basis or as total project cost. For example if the total seed bill for seeding a site is $1500, then this cost can be entered under the project cost column for seed expenses. A blend of per acre costs and total project cost estimates can be used. If individual farm costs are not available the “provincial benchmarks” can be used.

Although no direct entry is listed for swathing and seeding the crop, these costs are incorporated in this section through fuel and machinery repair charges.

For depreciation costs, either select the “provincial benchmark” or enter a per-acre or project cost, or use the depreciation worksheet.

                                    

If the depreciation worksheet is selected, enter any equipment or buildings used in crop production. Enter the current market value for each item listed in the tables and select the type of asset. Depreciation rates have been pre-selected for each type of asset. To allocate the depreciation costs, enter a percent estimate of the amount time each item is used for the crop production phase for this project only. For example, if 2% of a tractor’s time is spent preparing and seeding the acres for the swath grazing site, enter 2% under the crop production section.

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Swath Grazing Costs (Screen 3)

In this section, extra costs that are associated with managing a swath grazing site are included. These can be entered on a per-head basis or as total project cost. For example, costs to provide supplemental feed or bedding for the swath grazing project would be included here.

The costs associated with swathing the crop are incorporated under the “Cropping Costs” on screen 2.

For depreciation costs, enter a per acre or project cost or use the depreciation worksheet. There are no “provincial benchmarks” available for depreciation costs.

If the depreciation worksheet is selected, enter any equipment or buildings used in swath grazing.Enter an estimate of each items present value in the tables and select the type of asset. Depreciation rates have been pre-selected for each type of asset. To allocate the depreciation costs, enter an estimate of the amount time each item is used for the swath grazing phase. For example, an electric fencing system may only be used for swath grazing.If this were the case, you would enter 100 % under swath grazing to reflect these costs.

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Conventional Winter Feeding Costs Screen 4

In this section, there are two sets of costs that must be entered. First, the costs incurred to harvest and place the crop in storage need to be recorded. This includes ensiling or baling costs. These can be entered on per unit basis such as per bale or as a total project cost.  Based on the conventional feeding system selected on “Screen 1”, the calculator will provide you with “provincial benchmark” costs for that feeding system. Provincial benchmarks can be used if individual farm costs are not available.

For cereal crops the costs of swathing have been incorporated under “Cropping Costs” on screen 2.

The second part of Screen 4 involves entering yardage costs associated with the conventional winter-feeding system. These can be entered on a per head basis or as a total project cost. Provincial benchmarks are provided if yardage costs are not available.

For depreciation costs, either select the “provincial benchmark” or enter a per acre or project cost or use the depreciation worksheet.

If the depreciation worksheet is selected, enter any equipment or buildings used in swath grazing. Enter an estimate of each item’s current market value in the tables and select the type of asset. Depreciation rates have been pre-selected for each type of asset. To allocate the depreciation costs, enter an estimate of the amount time each item is used for the production of conventional winter feeds. For example, if 3% of a tractor's hours and 10% of a baler's hours are spent harvesting the conventional winter feed acres, enter those values under Conventional Feeding.

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5. Annual Feeding Summary

The information in this report is designed to provide you with a cost comparison between the two winter feeding systems. One cost analysis provides a blend of swath grazing and conventional winter-feeding. The second analysis only looks at those costs associated with feeding the entire winter period with one of the conventional feeding systems (chopped silage, bale silage or baled green feed). Remember that the calculator uses the same seeded acreage and crop production costs for both feed production systems.

For swath grazing, the number of projected grazing days is obtained from the data entered in Screen 1. For conventional feeding, the number of days required is the difference between the total winter feeding period and the number of swath grazing days.

The swath grazing and conventional feeding costs are listed as a head per day charge for both the crop and feeding costs. The costs are further summarized to provide a per day cost and a full winter-feeding period cost for both feeding systems.

In the conventional feeding section, the costs associated with the feeding system are applied to the full winter feeding period. The costs are provided for crop production and winter-feeding. The costs are further summarized to provide a per day cost and a full winter- feeding period cost for both feeding systems.

A comparison can now be made between a conventional winter-feeding program and one that incorporates swath grazing as part of the management system. The potential savings due to swath grazing are listed at the bottom of the screen.

How can you use this information? The costs presented in these tables can help to determine whether swath grazing provides any economic advantage to your livestock operation. By adjusting your initial inputs on Screen 1 (General Production Information) you have the option to evaluate the impact of increasing or decreasing the number of swath grazing days on your winter- feeding program.

The cost estimates provided by the calculator for the conventional winter-feeding program may not reflect your costs. Select the “Cost Over Rider” to adjust your crop cost (daily feed costs) and the feeding costs (costs of feed delivery). The new costs are entered on per head per basis.

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6. Final Report - Screen 6

This report provides a complete summary of the data entered into the Swath Grazing Calculator from Screen 1 ( Animal and Feed Production) and from Screens 2 to 4 ( Cropping, Swath Grazing and Conventional Feeding Costs). The final report also provides an estimate of the feeding costs associated with either the swath-grazing project or the alternative conventional feeding program.

Please select the print image to obtain a copy of this report.

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7. Getting More Information

For further information contact Gordon Hutton, Development Officer - Feed Grains (403) – 948-8502 with Agriculture and Forestry, Forage and Horse Branch. Email: gordon.hutton@gov.ab.ca

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8. Acknowledgements

The swath grazing calculator was developed by Agriculture and Forestry's Livestock Development Branch and the Business Management Innovations Branch. Support in terms of resources and expertise was also provided by Agriculture and Forestry's Economics Unit and Information Technology Services Division.

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