by Jeremy Sweeten
Combing grazing with cover crops is like 1+1=3.
First, there is the benefit of the cover crop and manure for soil health. Nutrients are being cycled. Approximately 66% of the phosphorous and 90% of the potassium that is in a plant when grazed are returned to the soil in the form of manure (The Ohio State University research).
Second, you benefit from the weight gain on the animals. And all of this without high quantities of stored feed.
Finally, the farm ground is being utilized in a time where it is not productively producing row crops.
Remember that cover crop diversity improves animal gains and soil health. CISCO sells a full line of cover crops that will help you maximize the profit potential on your acres.
In a recent article in Successful Farming, Mary Drewnoski, Extension beef systems specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). walks us through several different options for maximizing land use with the addition of a fall cover crop. Why let those acres go to waste?
First, she notes that there are options. You can choose a cool-season or a warm-season species, depending on what your goals are and how early you can get in the field. Second, she notes the variability that can occur with the date you plant. Often times, the earlier you can get in the field, the more tonnage you can harvest. Finally, you have to determine when you want to graze these crops. If you're after fall forage, you may choose a crop like oats for its fast growth, even though it will winterkill. If you're after spring grazing, you may choose a crop like cereal rye or triticale.