Can You Graze Annual Cover Crops?

Can You Graze Annual Cover Crops?

Iowa cattle producers are sharing their grazing annual cover crops experiences at a series of fall field days. They're demonstrating use of annual cover crops for extending the grazing season and increasing grazing opportunities following grain production.

Five eastern Iowa cattle producers are sharing their grazing annual cover crops experiences during a series of field days this month, and everyone is invited. Iowa State University Extension beef specialist Denise Schwab says all are part of a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) farmer grant program to demonstrate the use of annual cover crops for extending the grazing season and increasing the grazing opportunities following grain production.

"Feeder calf prices may be up this year, but cattlemen still need to keep a close watch on feed prices because feed easily can be 70% or more of the cost to raise a calf," says Schwab. "There are a variety of options to help with feed costs and benefit cropping operations, ranging from seeding cereal rye grain or oats in early fall that can extend the grazing season, to winter seeded grain that provides ground cover to prevent soil erosion and supply feed for the late fall and early winter."

Fall field days feature discussion of annual cover crop grazing

Schwab, also a beef specialist with Iowa Beef Center (IBC) at Iowa State, says rye also provides early spring grazing, allowing cows and calves to move out of dry lots sooner in the spring and reducing the need for stored feed until typical pasture turn-out in May. Calving on green grass also is much healthier for the newborn calf than muddy lots.

"All of the field day events will be held if weather permits, so be sure to check if field conditions are questionable," she says. Contact Schwab by phone at 319-472-4739 or by email at [email protected].

Fall field day dates, times and locations:

* Wednesday, Nov. 9, 1 p.m., Don Stickle farm The farm is located at  3969 Buffalo Ridge Rd., Anamosa. One field has fall-seeded oats, triticale and turnips for grazing, ready for grazing cows. Neighboring fields were seeded with cereal rye for spring grazing and soil protection. Last winter, several fields were planted with deep-growing radish to lessen soil compaction and conserve fall-applied manure nutrients. Grain harvest comparisons will be shared.

* Tuesday, Nov. 15, 1 p.m., Al Welter farm – The Welter farm is 6 miles north of Onslow on Hwy 136, then 1/4 mile east. Cereal rye seeding with or without oats has followed corn chopping for many years. Sometimes brassicas (turnips or radishes) are added to increase available nutrients. This event will show grazing fall-seeded cereal crops and Welter will share his experiences over the years. Also, Dave Lubben will talk about results of his year-long cover crop project which included rye grain seeded into soybean stubble. He'll share information on side-by-side comparisons of corn yields following the cover crop.

* Thursday, Nov. 17, 1 p.m., Ken and Scott Birker farm – Travel one mile north of Prairie Creek Church on Hwy 150 north of Vinton, then 1/8 mile east. For many years, they have used annual and cover crops including fall-seeded oats, cereal rye, sorghum x sudangrass and teff grass. Their demonstrations this year included fall seeded oats with berseem clover for fall and winter grazing, deep rooted radish following sweet corn, sorghum x sudangrass and teff grass. They also seeded oats behind chopped corn to reduce erosion and provide a crop to conserve manure nutrients for the next spring's grain crop.

TAGS: USDA Extension
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