Ryeland Sheep,, Daylesford organic. Martin Morrell

Pasture for Life - It can be done

The farm business case for feeding ruminants just on pasture

Brunyee, J, Diepenbroek, L & Gregson, S
The Pasture-Fed Livestock Association
January 2016
All rights reserved.
Applied research
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Resource explained: 

Making a living from red meat production is hard, often with low or negative financial returns. But behind the industry averages sit some exciting success stories. Many of these successful examples involve feeding livestock on a natural diet of grass, wildflowers and herbs, and following the Pasture for Life ethos, where no grain is fed.

This document aims to provide evidence for farmers who still feed some grain that they need not be afraid of stopping.

To strengthen anecdotal evidence gathered in previous years, the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association worked with AHDB Stocktake consultants to analyse and compare eight certified Pasture for Life farmers with the Stocktake 2015 average and top third figures.

Three sets of costings are presented for breeding sheep flocks, suckler cows and beef finishing units.

The booklet includes case studies of eight Pasture for Life farmers and a page of Frequently Asked Questions.

Findings & recommendations: 
  • Producing lamb and beef on 100% pasture and forage crops can be done and can be profitable.
  • By selecting the right breeds with the most suitable genetics, coupled with good grassland management, Pasture for Life farmers can rival and exceed the performance achieved by the top third Stocktake producers.
  • Data collected showed that breeding sheep flocks had higher gross margins. Although output (sales per ewe) were down due to lower lambing and rearing rates), the variable costs, particularly concentrate feed purchases, were much lower, resulting in a very healthy gross margin.
  • Pasture for Life suckler cow systems echo the industry average and show a negative net margin, despite lower variable costs.
  • The Pasture for Life beef finishers include two organic producers who sell much of their premium beef direct to the consumer. These routes to market are reflected in a high output figure per head. This, together with very low variable costs, results in a substantial gross margin.
  • Pasture for Life farmers are committed to forage-based systems and eliminating concentrate feed, saving money.
  • The daily liveweight gain of finished beef stock at 0.9kg/day exceeds the industry top third.