Do Conservation Practices Pay Off?

 Jayce Hafner, Co-Founder & CEO at FarmRaise

Rotational grazing on the Hafner farm

My family farm received two farm grants which paid for new fencing and water so that we could transition our 160-acre Angus beef operation to rotational grazing. This conservation-based management practice involves moving the cattle around a field to maximize soil health and forage productivity. Within the first year, our costs were reduced because the cattle grazed outside for longer, savings that ultimately translated to a $7K annual profit boost (along with higher protein content in our forage and visually greener pastures). 


Inspired by my family’s experience, I co-founded FarmRaise to help other producers get grants and loans for their operations. Our experience also made me wonder: is our operation an outlier, or do conservation-based practices actually pay off for farmers? 


For rotational grazing, science backs my family’s experience. Research from the University of Missouri shows that higher rates of rotational grazing can save farmers over $30/acre. Financial returns are also achievable for soil health practices in row cropping systems; cover crops can save corn producers $17/acre, with even higher savings possible when this practice is combined with no-till management.These savings aren’t limited to the soil: farm infrastructure improvements that reduce energy consumption can save producers $18K annually.


Researchers claim that conservation practices can increase farm profitability by nearly 80%. So why aren’t all farmers investing in their natural resources? 


The answer lies in farm economics.  It may take producers 3-5 years to realize the financial benefits of these practices, and these improvements often come with significant upfront costs. Rotational grazing requires new fencing and water systems, cover crops need seed and labor, and energy efficiency requires investing in expensive new systems. Given these constraints, it’s no wonder that most farmers don’t go all out on conservation.


Fortunately, there are billions of dollars in grants that fund, incentivize, and de-risk these conservation practices so that producers can realize strong financial benefits. Getting these grants can be a competitive process, but for many producers, they are achievable. At FarmRaise, we’re committed to helping farmers identify and access funding to improve their farms for future generations.