Competing on more than price for rented land

Sheep grazing mid-summer. Photo credit: Lyndsey Smith, 2017

Ontario’s soils are losing organic matter. What builds organic matter? Perennial and forage species! But if you’re going to plant perennial hay or pasture, you have to have something to feed it to or you won’t be farming long enough to see the value of the added organic matter.

And that’s a slight problem, as farms have grown more specialized. Cover crops are one option to mimic the addition of pasture in rotation, certainly, but in many areas there are livestock farmers looking for either forage to feed, or land to apply manure, or both.

When land is scarce and access competitive, what’s a land renter to do?

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) recently published two factsheets, one for land owners and the other for land renters, in an effort to encourage longer, more diverse crop rotations for the benefit of the soil, the land owner, and the land user.

It’s estimated that about 40% of Ontario’s farmland is farmed by someone other than the owner. That’s a whole lot of rental agreements being negotiated, and OMAFRA’s Christoph Wand, author of these latest factsheets, wants landowners to recognize the benefits of having livestock producers as land renters.

Livestock, specifically ruminants, are a key factor in sustainable cropping systems, says Wand. If a land owner recognizes the long-term benefits of grazing or haying in rotation, perhaps they’d be more likely to rent land to those who own livestock. Perhaps a 10-year lease and matching crop rotation is worth more to the land owner, because of the long-term health of that land versus a higher rent rate per acre for a more typical corn-soy-wheat rotation.

For those looking to pitch this idea to a land owner, Wand says you can access and share the factsheets through OMAFRA’s website, or by tapping here.

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Lyndsey Smith

Lyndsey Smith is a field editor for RealAgriculture. A self-proclaimed agnerd, Lyndsey is passionate about all things farming but is especially thrilled by agronomy and livestock production.

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