Producers considering converting cropland to pasture might find it beneficial to consult the updated Pasture Development Costs resource available on Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food’s website.

“The pasture development cost document is a good way to get information on the cost of establishing pasture and the annual operating costs for pastures,” Forage Development Specialist Wally Vanin, who compiled the publication, said.  “This information can then be used to evaluate the profitability of converting cropland to pasture.

“The publication looks at the costs for the brown, dark brown and black soil zones. It is based on a moderate stocking rate. Annual costs are calculated, but will depend on your stocking rate.”

The publication provides a format for calculating the cost of developing a new pasture. The costs of establishing a pasture with crested wheatgrass/alfalfa or meadow bromegrass/alfalfa blends are shown on a soil zone basis. Machine costs are similar for each soil zone, and are calculated based on the cost of developing 160 acres of new pasture.

Machinery costs are based on figures in the 2004 Farm Machinery Custom and Rental Rate Guide, also available on the department’s website. As costs and machine size can vary significantly, actual costs should be used when available.

Costs are broken down into variable (fertilizer, herbicide, fuel, lubrication and repairs) and other (machine depreciation, investment) costs. Investment costs include the construction of two miles of four-strand barbed wire fence and a 3,000 cubic-yard dugout.

“When considering any water source, be sure to contact your nearest PFRA office before construction, for more information on water quality and quantity. Ensure that any buried infrastructure is located before any excavation is started.”

Forage is to be seeded into standing crop stubble in the spring. A one litre per acre glyphosate pre-seed burn-off treatment is used for weed control. Straw and chaff must be properly spread in the fall of the year prior to seeding the forage.

Seeding rates vary based on soil zones, specific areas and conditions.

Vanin found that annual per acre operating costs were similar in all three soil zones.

“However, based on moderate stocking rates, the cost per animal unit month is lower as you go north.”

The pasture development document was originally produced in 1999 and includes a worksheet where producers can enter their own data to calculate costs.

“With this publication, the establishment costs were amortized over the first seven years of the pasture. The producer actually has a choice of amortizing those costs, or simply absorbing those establishment costs out of his or her current operation. Most often, producers pay those costs right off the bat.

“The publication uses full costs for all items. The costs tend to be high, and producers may find lower cost fencing materials to reduce their costs. For the sake of the publication, we used full costs on all items. Therefore, costs are fairly high, but producers could probably do it for less.”

The publication is available on the website at www.agr.gov.sk.ca. Click on Crops, Forage/Pasture, Forage Management/Production, then click on the document name.

More detailed information on grazing capacity, agronomics, seed varieties, lease arrangements, fencing and machinery costs can be obtained from Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food’s Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377, or from Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food’s website.