Land Management Mowing Alternatives For Large Acreage
In the course of my regular work in land management and property maintenance, I am sometimes called on to solve problems with large acreage. One of the most common occurs when someone new to land management buys a large parcel of land without the awareness of the maintenance costs. This usually leads to questions about land usage and maintenance, and culminates with one question: “How much is all of this extra mowing going to cost?”
The cost of mowing
When there are several acres to be mowed, it can tax resources. Doing the job yourself can be a time consuming project. The cost can also be pretty high, requiring a tractor and shredder. The cost of paying someone to do the job for you can prove to be prohibitive. The price in my area runs between $25.00 and $50.00 per acre. For 20 acres of land, the median cost of hiring someone to mow three times a year, would be about $2,400.00!
Alternatives to mowing
There are a few alternatives that are less expensive, and a couple of them might even earn some extra money. Please note that this is for areas that are “pasture like”, that is, that they are reasonably level and free of debris. If your land is covered in trees, that is probably the way it should stay, but I will address this in another article.
Some of these suggestions should be fairly obvious. If you have a lot of acreage, and it costs money to maintain it, it would be wise to put the land to work for you.
The land could be used to produce a crop. If you have the time and experience necessary, a row crop might work for you, but they can be pretty labor intensive.
Wheat, oats, and other grain crops could be a less labor intensive method, but it still involves some work.
Planting trees for timber production is less labor intensive, since they do not have to be replanted and harvested each year, but the return on this relatively small investment takes several years. Still, it beats having to mow, or pay someone else to do so.
Cattle production is another possibility. It requires some expertise, and some work, but it can be done, with varying levels of profitability.
All of the things listed thus far involve a significant investment of time and money, but they can also be accomplished with the aid of others. You could allow someone to rent the property for these purposes, or allow them to produce the crop on your property for a cut of the profit. This system works very well with my next suggestion.
This method will allow you to produce a crop on your land, with little to no labor and expense on your part, and leave you with a profit!
Find someone who bails hay for a living, and ask if they would be willing to bail your pasture land “on the halves”. That simply means, that if they bail it, you get half the hay, and they get half. If they want to fertilize the meadow, you can either split the cost with them, or see if they want to just take extra bails above your cut.
This is a really good solution because it allows you to avoid the expense of mowing, produce a crop that will be used for animal feed, and possibly make a few bucks in the process.
What to do with the hay
What do you do with all that hay? Well, you can use it, or you can sell it. There is a pretty good chance that the guy who bails it will either want it for himself, and be willing to pay you, or he probably knows someone who does. Don’t have any way to transport it? That’s ok too. most people who buy hay have the equipment to do the job. Even if you sell your half of the hay at lower than market price, you will still make some money, and you will have saved the cost of having to have your pasture mowed, and together, that equals a pretty good profit!
Hay production example
If your 20 acre pasture made 4 rolls per acre per season, that would be 80 rolls, your part would be 40 rolls multiplied by the price for bail, which we will figure at $30.00, would be $1,200.00. $1,200.00 profit, plus $2,400.00 savings on mowing costs, leaves you $3,600.00 better off each year. And that is nothing to sneeze at!
Lease the property to others
It is possible to avoid mowing by renting the property you own to others for use in one of the activities mentioned above. You could rent your land out to a rancher for cattle grazing or hay production, to a farmer for row crops or grain crops. Your profit would probably be less than with the hay production method mentioned above, but you might be able to barter your way into a better deal. Either way, you would still come out ahead on the mowing costs.
There are chemical treatments that will leave your pasture land with growing grass, without the need to mow more than once a year, and still leave the wildlife living in it, in place. These methods involve very small amounts of herbicide which stunt the growth of the plants for a few months. Oddly, if you are concerned with wildlife, the chemical option is probably the best. Mowing takes out a lot of small animals. The cost of such a program is usually about the same as one mowing.
See also: Mowing Options Chemical Mowing