Starting a cattle operation with contract grazing

Starting a cattle operation with contract grazing

Learn about cattle, contract grazing and conservation at Woodlawn farm field day Sept. 3 near Amana.

Starting a cattle grazing operation requires the necessary infrastructure, proper planning, the right cattle genetics, and of course, land. Leasing pasture through contractual agreements can be a great way to access land to start or expand an operation, but making these arrangements can be tricky.

John Schulte and his son Travis operate Woodlawn, a 600-acre cow-calf operation on pasture that also includes hay, cover crops, summer annuals and conventional corn. The 600 acres are split between two locations, both of which were previously neglected and are now undergoing revitalization using various forms of rotational grazing.

LEASING PASTURE: At the contract grazing field day Sept. 3 near Amana, you'll hear from farmers, an ISU Extension beef specialist and an ag lawyer about contracts for grazing and how to do your own leasing arrangements.

As John explains, "Both farms have steep hills, some timber and small creeks running through them. They have been grazed for decades. We are building waterways, exclusion fencing and implementing managed grazing which will dramatically reduce erosion. The pasture renovation includes interseeding, cover crops and reseeding as well as dealing with the many invasive trees, bushes and plants."

Opportunity to see and hear both sides of custom grazing
The Schultes are hosting a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day to demonstrate their farms' pasture renovation, infrastructure planning for grazing, and leasing arrangement they've set up with a neighboring farmer for contract grazing. "The field day is an opportunity to hear both sides of custom grazing. You'll see various ways to water cattle, renovate pasture, incorporate annuals and everything in between," says John.

This PFI field day will be held on Thursday, September 3, from noon to 4 p.m. on the Schulte farms near Norway and Amana, Iowa. The event "Starting a Cattle Operation with Contract Grazing" will begin at 1053 T Ave., Norway, IA 52318 before moving to 2955 126th St., Amana, IA 52203 for the second half of the day. The field day is free and includes a catered lunch. RSVPs are requested for the meal. Contact Lauren Zastrow at 515-232-5661 or [email protected]. The event is being held in partnership with Iowa County Farm Bureau and the Price Creek Watershed.

Pasture management, improved grazing systems, better water quality
"This year, Iowa County Farm Bureau teamed up with the Price Creek Watershed Project to offer a series of water quality workshops. Pasture management continues to be a hot topic with local cattlemen and we are excited to share how changes in management can improve profits, herd health and water quality," says Rose Danaher, Price Creek Watershed coordinator. "The Schulte's have been strong supporters of the Price Creek Watershed Project, which aims to remove a bacteria impairment from Price Creek. The work they've done has improved water quality and serves as a model for others who are looking to make positive changes in their grazing systems."

In addition to Rose Danaher and the Schultes, the field day will feature speakers Dan Gerhold, a neighboring farmer, Joe Sellers, ISU Extension beef specialist, and Ed Cox, agricultural lawyer. Joe Sellers and Ed Cox will talk about contracts for grazing and provide some resources for attendees to do their own leasing arrangements.

Directions to the starting location from Amana: Take U.S. 151 north for 3.2 miles, turn left on 110th Street and go 3 miles, then turn right on T Avenue; Woodlawn will be in one-half mile. From Norway: At the west end of town, go south on 29th Avenue for 2.7 miles; go straight on T Avenue for one-half mile to Woodlawn. PFI's 2015 field day season features 40 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. The guide is available online at, or contact the PFI office at 515-232-5661 to request a printed copy.

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