CATTLE GRAZING AND PROFITABILITY IN A DRYLAND WHEAT SORGHUM-FALLOW ROTATION WITH AN EL NINO - LA NINA DECISION VARIABLE
Jesko, Noah Paul
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The gradual decline of the Ogallala Aquifer has partially led to an overall decrease in the number of irrigated acres within the Texas High Plains. With the decline of sub surface water resources, producers are looking to alternative enterprises such as dryland production systems. A common dryland production system is the wheat sorghum-fallow (WSF) rotation. This system can also be varied to include livestock grazing. The two primary objectives within this study are (i) evaluate the profitability of the WSF production system when coupled with alternative cattle grazing systems, and (ii) provide an analysis of the profitability of incorporating El Nino - La Nina predictive information as a decision variable with the grazing decision. From 1999-2009, WSF rotational phases were established in duplicate ungrazed and grazed plots in three replicated paddocks in Bushland, Texas. A target stocking rate of 725 kilograms per hectare was established, which yielded an approximate 0.38 head per hectare. Average monthly cattle prices were generated by compiling and averaging sale data from 2015 to 2017 for the Amarillo, Dalhart, and Tulia Livestock Auctions. Results indicate that when comparing contracting versus owning cattle on the WSF system, the most profitable is to own the cattle that are grazing, though it was less risky to contract them. The El Nino -La Nina decision variable assumed grazing in El Nino years and no grazing in La Nina years. Overall, yields in sorghum and wheat were not found to be statistically different between the grazing and non-grazing years. A significant difference was not found in the profitability between the grazing and non-grazing years. The difference in profitability between using the decision variable and not using the decision variable was numerically different, with the estimated profit per hectare being $492.69 per hectare for contact grazing and $489.74 per hectare for owned grazing.