Suppose you have more beef cattle than you have grass, but you don't want to cut back. A neighbor has pasture that he doesn't use. Should you rent it and solve the problem for both of you?
That question may not be as easy to answer as it sounds. Here are some considerations form forage experts.
- Fence repair- Are there good fences now? If not, is the landowner willing to invest in fence, split the cost, or expect you to do all the work?
- Length of agreement- If you agree to share in fence expense, will the owner give you a long-term lease so that you have an opportunity to recover your costs? Are you committed to the cattle business, and are you going to need the excess pasture every year?
- Type of pasture? Is the pasture an older pasture with mostly grass that hasn't been cared for, or is it well maintained? If it is older and grass, is tall fescue infected with endophyte a possibility? Ask if it was seeded to endophyte –free grass. Endophyte-fescue can cause various problems in cattle and affect reproduction, plus reduce efficiency.
- Fertilize pasture- Is the owner willing to let you soil test the pasture and apply what's needed? Will he expect you to pay the fertilizer bill?
- Insurance? Will your policy cover your cattle on the owner's farm? What if one or more animals get out and cause an accident? Will your liability cover you? What if the animals are stolen while in the pasture?
One other important question is cost. How much does the landowner expect? Is he renting it per acre, per head or just how? Does the owner want the money monthly, all up front, or at the end of the season? Is there adequate water available? Does he expect you to pay electricity to run the pumps? If there is a creek or pond, are cattle fenced out of it, and watered in tanks instead?
Here is what the Indiana Ag Statistics Service says livestock producers paid to rent pasture from 2005 through 2011. This assumes that it is regular pasture, not improved for rotational grazing with water lines , tanks and paddocks already established. The years 2005 through 2007 are Corn Belt averages. The last four years are for Indiana only. The 2011 data was preliminary/.
The numbers per acre are, respectively, $30.50, $31, $31, $39, $41, $46 and $31 in 2011. Use these as bargaining points to begin your discussion.