Grazing cover crops: Tim Palmer offers tips

   Tim Palmer, ILF farmer partner from Madison County, hosted a great field day in late November and shared some great information about how he uses cover crops in his operation.

Tim PalmerQ. Tell us a little bit about you and your farm.

A. I have farmed in Madison, Clarke and Warren Counties for 40 years, managing 800 acres of row crops in corn and soybean rotation. I also have a 120 cow/calf operation with finishing. I am active in soil and water conservation on many levels, serving as a Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner, State Soil Conservation Committee–South Central Region representative, North Central Region executive board member for the National Association of Conservation Districts. I also serve as director for Madison County Farm Bureau.

Q. How many years have you been using cover crops? How many acres did you plant this year?

A. I’ve been using cover crops for two years, fall of 2013 was the first year. I planted about 170 acres in this fall.

Q. What motivated you to add cover crops to your operation?

A. Cover crops have many benefits for soil health and protection, but I was most interested in finding a way to extend my forage supplies for the cattle by grazing the cover crops. Cover crops have tremendous feed value for livestock. I am also in the early stages of determining the potential as forage.

Q. What varieties of cover crops have you used?

A. Triticale for grazing and baling, but also radishes, oats, and winter wheat. We planted triticale in the fall of 2013 and left 10 acres that was going to soybeans. The plot yielded 65 bushels/ac.

Gowing Triticale for Seed

Tim standing in the triticale before it was harvested for cover crop seed.

 

Q. What methods have you used to plant your cover crop?

A. I drilled oats in late February 2014. They grew well that spring and were terminated with herbicide before planting corn. The triticale used for grazing was seeded at 75 lbs/ac in the last week of September by an airplane.

Mowing triticale

Mowing the triticale for forage.

 

Q.  When do you typically allow the cows to graze the cover crop?

A.  They are turned out when it starts to green up–maybe the first week of April. I hayed it by May 21st,  which was determined by last year’s haying crop insurance rules. I plan to graze more than haying it this spring. Last spring, 70 cow/calf pairs grazed on 15 acres for a month.

 

Q. What about termination of the cover crop?

A. The radishes and oats were killed with a frost. The winter wheat and triticale overwintered. Some of the triticale was harvested for seed and terminated naturally. The rest of the cover crops were also hayed and grazed and terminated with 1.5 quarts of glyphosate per acre.

 

Tim Palmer and Cow

Tim’s cows love the cover crops (and him)!

 

For more information about grazing cover crops and incorporating cover crops into your operation, check out the video below, which is one of the chapters in the  “Cover Crops: Farmer Perspectives” video. You can watch the entire video on our YouTube channel.

 

Liz Juchems

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