An Economic Analysis of Grazing, Haying and Cropping Marginal Highly Erodible Crop Land in Southcentral North Dakota


"That quarter of land was reseeded to grass 10 years ago and it has made me more money in grass than it ever did raisiní crops, I know because I kept records." That comment by a well respected rancher in western North Dakota got me thinking about the value of farming and grazing many of the marginal lands located in central and western North Dakota. When the research program at the CGREC was first being developed we thought about those comments and the impact of reseeding marginal cropland to grass and grazing them in some type of a well managed grazing system. The first study was started in the early 1980s and it evaluated grazing marginal land reseeded to crested wheatgrass, Russian wildrye and Altai wildrye grazed in a complementary grazing system with native mixed-grass prairie. While this study was being conducted, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) was started and comparisons were made between the returns from the complementary system and potential returns from CRP. When this original study concluded the CGREC entered into an agreement with a private landowner and the USDA to graze and hay actual CRP acres. The study reported here is the result of this agreement.

The goal of this study was to record actual input costs for:  

1. Annual crop farming
2. Grazing marginal-highly erodible land
3. Haying marginal-highly erodible land

These costs are, whenever possible, calculated from actual costs, such as the cost of fertilizer, herbicides, etc. In other instances where actual costs are not available estimates are used that closely reflect actual input costs. For equipment and operator costs for cropping and haying, custom farm rates are used as they are a fair reflection of the costs involved in depreciation, repairs and operatorís time. Costs for land taxes and government disaster payments are not included in the calculations.

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