The Heifer Grazing Compass

Using Nature to Nurture Farm Financials

The Heifer Grazing Compass is an Excel-based planning tool for anyone considering raising heifers on pasture. The tool is designed to help users predict and understand the cash flow and long-term financial outcomes associated with raising heifers on pasture. It can be used to help dairy farmers assess their options for raising heifers as well as by other farmers, outside of dairy, who might want to start raising heifers on pasture as an enterprise.

This spreadsheet tool helps farmers answer:

  • Can my land support the dry matter demand of my heifer herd?
  • Is the new feeding plan sufficient for my heifers’ healthy development?
  • What are the establishment costs of a pasture system?
  • What is the operating expense and labor expense during the grazing season?
  • What are the financial implications of my current heifer-raising strategy?
  • How do the financial outcomes of the proposed pasture system compare to my existing strategy?’

Using the compass demonstrates that raising heifers using managed grazing results in savings of 25% to over 50% per head per day during the grazing season as opposed to confinement. Grazing heifers can also result in labor savings of 50% to 75% during grazing season.

The Heifer Grazing Compass has been created, formatted, and protected, so that it does not require advanced computer skills to use. However, if you are unfamiliar with Excel spreadsheets, we recommend learning how to navigate a spreadsheet and how to enter data prior to use of the tool.

While the tool is free to access and use, we require that you answer three questions to help us understand who is using the tool and to provide an email address so that when we update or improve the tool we can notify users.

This tool was conceived and designed by Brad Barham, John Hendrickson, Connor Mulholland, and Jim Munsch for the University of Wisconsin as part of the Grassland 2.0 project. Questions or comments can be addressed to John Hendrickson at or Jim Munsch at