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Graze 300 VA

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To enable Virginia farmers to achieve 300 days of livestock grazing by facilitating better pasture management and environmental stewardship.

Winter feeding expenses can account for more than 50% of cow/calf and small ruminant production costs, and make up a large portion of the variable expenses for horse owners or boarding operations as well.  In some cases, this cost can be as high as 75% of total annual cost on the least efficient operations.  Our goal is to improve both farm profitability and water quality by converting livestock producers to winter feeding management that is reliant upon grazing instead of a 4-month long dependency on more costly hay feeding.  Graze 300 VA is an educational initiative designed to address this issue.   Presently, only a small handful of producers in Virginia’s Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley regions regularly approach or achieve a 300-day grazing season.  The goal is to increase the number of producers that graze 300 days per year or more. 

Extending the grazing season will benefit water quality through improved water infiltration, improved nutrient use efficiency, fewer barren areas in fields (winter feeding sites) and improved soil organic matter. In addition, The Chesapeake Bay TMDL gives nutrient and sediment credit for every acre of pasture converted into a grazing management system and every foot of stream where livestock are excluded. There are over 96,000 beef cows in the Northern Shenandoah Valley and Northern Piedmont of Virginia. If 20% of the farmers (19,000 cows) improve economics by $100 per head per year, the benefit would be $1.9 million.  When extended to 20% of the entire Virginia beef cow herd, this can generate an addition to participant’s bottom line of $13 million from the cost savings. Considering the estimated number of sheep (84,983), goats (50,831) and equine (215,000) in Virginia, the economic impact of extending the grazing season for any species is pretty impressive.