Value can have two different definitions; material value or human value. Let's look at the value upon humanity first, then monetarily in the calculations to determine the actual market value of lawn silage.
Before I tell you how to how determine the market price of lawn clipping silage, you first have to get to the place where you can put value in the concept of using grass clippings for something other than the landfill or the compost pile. This idea of making silage from fresh grass clippings may be cool or sick as my teenagers would say, but accepting to feed these clipping on a worldwide level is going to take some acceptance from both sides of this argument. Lawn clipping silage is not your father's Oldsmobile!
In the same conservation principles that during the Dust Bowl era, gave us shelter belts to prevent erosion and bank moisture behind these shelter belts, we must figure out how to double the food supply by 2050 or starve to death as a planet (according to the World Health Organization).
During the Dust Bowl era, our grandparents voluntarily took land out of production to plant shelter belts to protect themselves from another economic disaster should drought ever hit again, and it paid off. I don't think we can double the feed supply by simply increasing yields on the land in currently in production, and furthermore, there isn't even enough extra, tillable land remaining to meet this goal. But like hundreds of thousands of homeowners in the USA, we are presently growing a "lawn crop" that is being thrown away and this is leading to our landfill reaching capacity prematurely while adding to green house gas emissions.
Multiple Universities are recommending the use of Lawn Clipping Silage as a viable feed source. One University in the "Corn Belt" admits that lawn clipping silage would be a great source of nutrition for Cow/Calf operations, a USDA dairy inspector says "dairy cattle will eat this stuff all day long", and in my own experience calves love lawn clipping silage. What an awesome feed source complete with its own water source for thirsting cattle in drought stricken areas of our country or internationally in developing countries. Producers have come to be part of this solution by embracing this obvious solution, in every community in the USA at least one landscaper, sod grower or golf course is selling their freshly mowed lawn clippings to a local cattle or sheep producer during the summer months. Consumers will accept the fact that grass is grass whether it's growing in the high country of Wyoming or in someones back yard in Detroit is the reason the beef prices are declining at their local supermarket. Is this our opportunity, of our era? Will we grasp the moment or turn our backs because change is frightening? I can hear it now, it's not the way Dad did it or Grandpa didn't do it that way...well of course not! But today it is the grandfathers and fathers that see the value in not throwing perfectly suitable lawn clippings as feed into a landfill or compost pile. The young folks are the ones that must make the decision between the bottom line a retaining the family farm and the nostalgic days of time gone past when cowboys pushed the herd between summer and winter range. These cattlemen and women solved the challenges of their time, producing food with alternative cropping methods is our challenge.
This is an exciting time for those that are the first in their area to feed lawn clipping silage or for landscapers to get a leg up on his competition as a contributor to sustainable agriculture. The first users will become the front page news of your local newspapers for being the Pioneers of this game changing concept.
One of the first major critics of intensive plowing was Edward H. Faulkner's "Plowman's Folly" published in 1943. Farmers gave the book little attention. Faulkner recognized the plow as a major cause of soil erosion, but did not have a workable alternative.
During the 1950's alternative primary tillage tools became common, including the chisel plow, disk plow, and stubble mulcher. At the same time, researchers and a few farmers were beginning to demonstrate the successful production of crops using chemicals in seedbed preparation and almost no tillage.
In the 1970's no-till acreage expanded rapidly in response to several circumstances. Economically, it was becoming harder to afford the time and equipment required to do primary tillage. The farm labor pool was shrinking, farm prices were dropping, and land and energy prices were rising. No-till allowed farms to farm steeper, more marginal lands, and required far less fuel, machinery, and time. At the same time, pressure to conserve soil and water was increasing, and no-till was cheaper to implement than other conservation practices, such as terracing.
Back in 1928 Ralston Purina Company introduced the first pellet chicken feed and the first dry feed for early weaning of calves without hay. An educational shift took place, farmers and ranchers had a decision to make, do it like dad because that's the way grandpa did it or embrace this new feed and use the knowledge of their forefathers combined with this new concept and solve the challenges that are to come. Innovation brought us creep feeders and then auto feeders. Lawn mowers, to Rear Baggers, and now composting to Lawn Clipping Silage.
To country people, lawn clippings have always been considered the waste and the problems associated with them, a thing of the city. Grass clippings from the farm-yard are usually tossed over the fence as a weekly treat to a few head of cattle. The country folks also knew that the city folks, were sure throwing away a lot of grass clippings. Producers actually wished that lawn owners would do something with them. On the other hand the city folks sure like their beautiful lawns and during dry years they still irrigate their crop! IT'S NOT PRACTICAL to drive cattle down Main street and allow our cows to graze those lush lawns but the BioPac'r can bring the lawns to the cattle all packaged up with a bow on it!
The only difference between the native bluegrass in the mountains of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado or the plains of the Dakota's, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma or Texas as compared to what grows in the lawns of homeowners is not much. Here in Wyoming, I have taken a small portion of my pasture and started spraying it for weeds, fertilizing it every 6 weeks and I added a sprinkler system. If you were to visit my house after three years of lawn care, you would think I'd sodded it with one of the high maintenance Kentucky bluegrass varieties from Home Depot or Ace Hardware.
What if we harness 23,000,000 million acres of lawn clippings that are being thrown away every week?
What if we figure out a way to get the lawn crop to the feed lot?
What if we renamed the "Lawn mower guys" with the term Lawn Harvesters? These are tough dry times both economically and environmentally and rather than cull our herds due to lack of feed or accept unemployment in the winter because our customer list shrank, lets grab hold of this opportunity.
What if we create a new revenue source in the winter or What if we figure out how to use this new feed source in the everyday ration. This is Ingenuity and Sustainability, that will lead to Profitability. All the livestock associations are trying to force teach the consumer about where their meat supply comes from. I say it would be much easier to partner with the consumer by using their lawn crops to produce the hamburgers and steaks on their tables. Then the consumer will get it!
Determining the value is a good exercise for now, but the market will ultimately determine its monetary value. Additional value will be factored in for the water and amino acids that are lacking in dried grass.
I've compared and contrasted many different crops and you the reader will have to decide for yourself what you want to compare it to. Every producer has different feeding regimes due to what is locally available. If you can buy lawn clipping silage and feed your livestock, attain the same gains and feed for half the price of hay, you may elect to sell your own hay to those not as accepting of change as yourself. This is a Win - Win.
Our Lawn Clipping Silage feed analysis would rate in the pricing category of “Good” under ADF and "Supreme" pricing for TDN. In this example, I want to calculate a low-end value for Lawn Clipping Silage by using a quality price range of “Good”. You will have to know what type of lawn grass you would be ensiling to be able to determine what quality range of hay to compare against. Feed-wise, Kentucky bluegrass falls somewhere between corn and alfalfa in nutrition.
I used the February 2, 2013 Texas Pricing for Hay crops that can be located at the USDA Market News (http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/am_gr310.txt) for the purpose of this example. As time goes forward I'm sure more sophisticated prediction models will emerge to offer livestock producers a better ideas of the way to budget for the use of Lawn Clipping Silage.
Amarillo, TX Fri Feb 01, 2013 USDA Market News Weekly Texas Hay Report
Projected large bales of hay, with a sell price for “GOOD QUALITY”= $225/ton (15% moisture, 85 % dry matter) would convert to a lawn clipping silage price (65% moisture, 35% dry matter) as follows:
$225/ton - $10/ton cut/bale* = $215/ton
$215/ton ÷ 85% dry matter = $252.94/ton dry matter
$252.94/ton dry matter x 35% dry matter silage = $88.53/ton (wet silage)
Hope this helps you calculate and understand the value of your Lawn Clipping Silage.
If you are a livestock feeder or dairy operator, add your name to our list of interested producers.
Until Next Time..