Evaluating Annual Forages for Beef Cattle: ISU Forage Research Test Plots

Iowa Learning Farms hosted webinar on Wednesday, August 26 about a current research project that assesses forage quality and potential yield of various annual crops. The benefits of incorporating annual forages is that they increase farm enterprise flexibility, extend the grazing season and provide a high-quality forage source, reduce weed pressure, and provide soil health and water quality benefits.

Map of the project’s research sites

The objectives of the research project are to compare forage yield and nutritional value, determine nutrient removal, and provide producer education. Erika Lundy, Extension Beef Specialist at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, explained the first-year results from this research project. The cool and warm season forage yields for the first year of the research project showed a benefit from applying nitrogen. Lundy also shared the forage quality measurements for the warm and cool season annuals, and compared those measurements to pasture quality.

During the webinar, Lundy also explained some of the best management practices for using annual forages, and touched on the economics of grazing. This research is part of a four-year project and more data will be coming out over the next couple years. The team will also look at soil nutrient loss when forages are mechanically harvested and will incorporate producer education and demonstrations to share the research results.

To learn more about the research into evaluating annual forages, watch the full webinar here!

Join us on Wednesday, September 2 at noon for a webinar titled “Long-Term Impacts of 4R Nitrogen Management Practices and Cover Crops on Nitrate-N Loss” presented by Matt Helmers, Director of the Iowa Nutrient Research Center.

Hilary Pierce

Farming for the Future With Wade Dooley – Virtual Field Day April 24 1pm CDT

Iowa Learning Farms, in partnership with the Iowa Nutrient Research Center and Conservation Learning Group, is hosting a free virtual field day on Friday, April 24th at 1pm CDT.

The event will include video footage from the field and live interaction with Marshall County farmer Wade Dooley as he shows changes he is making within the family farming operation to adjust to changing markets and climate.

Dooley is truly farming for the future, with an emphasis on making his family farm resilient in the changing climate and finding systems that allow him to learn, adapt and get excited to try again next year. For Dooley this means making big changes: moving away from row crops to CRP acres, raising cover crops for seed, extending his rotations and growing a grass-fed cow-calf operation.

“It is important to find a system that allows you to do what you enjoy, but that will also be a successful and profitable business,” noted Dooley. “One of my main goals is to grow food – vegetables, fruit and meat – in order to feed our neighbors here in Iowa.”

Make plans to join us and chat with Wade on how he’s making these changes with his family on their farm and how you can implement similar practices in your own system.

To participate in the live field day, shortly before 1:00 pm CDT on April 24, click this URL, or type this web address into your internet browser: https://iastate.zoom.us/s/315189792

Or, join from a dial-in phone line:

    Dial: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 646 876 9923

    Meeting ID: 315 189 792

The field day will be recorded and archived on the ILF website, so that it can be watched at any time. The archive is available at https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/events.

A Certified Crop Adviser board-approved continuing education unit (CEU) has been applied for, for those who are able to participate in the live webinar. Information about how to apply to receive the credit (if approved) will be provided at the end of the live field day.

Liz (Juchems) Ripley

ISU Research Focuses on Integrating Cover Crops for Grazing into Row Crop Enterprises

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By: Doug Gass | South Skunk River Watershed Project Coordinator

On Wednesday, two Iowa State University Extension and Outreach professionals discussed the viability of incorporating cover crop grazing into row crop enterprises. Erika Lundy, Extension Beef Specialist, and Rebecca Vittetoe, Extension Field Agronomist, discussed the results of three studies and one producer survey on the effectiveness of grazing cattle in cover crop stands established in row crop fields.

To reach the goals of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, it is important to explore as many cover crop benefits as possible. This includes assessing the viability of cover crops as a forage source for cattle operations.

CC_NovWebinarLundy and Vittetoe discussed spring and fall heifer grazing studies, along with one study looking at fall grazing of cow-calf pairs. Researchers in these studies sought to determine the quality of forage provided by cover crops, how grazing dates influence cover crop forage, and how grazing cattle impact soil organic matter and soil compaction in cover cropped fields. Data was collected from research fields in western, northwestern, and south-central Iowa.

P1060078_NovWebinarThe data collected thus far is promising. Indicating that cover crops offer high quality forage and more forage flexibility for cattle producers, resulting in “good weight gain” for the cattle grazing in cover crop fields. For example, the spring grazing study showed an approximate cost of $0.30 per pound of weight gained for cattle, which is economically comparable to cattle in drylot operations. Additionally, calves in the fall cow-calf grazing study displayed a significant weight gain advantage over drylot facility calves.

The presentation ended with a discussion of survey results from producers already grazing their cover crop fields. Producers emphasized the need for a clear and flexible grazing plan that accounts for yearly and seasonal weather variability. Other important considerations are how to get water to cattle, installing fences in the cover cropped fields, and the potential need for dry matter supplements to cover crop forage. Lundy also emphasized the importance of following pesticide labels when terminating cover crops to ensure compliance with grazing or crop rotation restrictions.

To learn more about this research, watch the full webinar here!

Join us next month, on December 18, when Adam Janke, Assistant Professor at Iowa State University, will present an Iowa Learning Farms webinar titled “Back to By-products: Promises and opportunities for layering benefits of water-resource conservation to restore farmland wildlife in the Corn Belt”.

November 20 Webinar: ISU Research Focuses on Integrating Cover Crops for Grazing into Row Crop Enterprises

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Iowa Learning Farms will host a webinar on Wednesday, November 20 at 12:00 p.m. about the research being done at Iowa State University on grazing cover crops.

P1060078_NovWebinarCover crops provide many benefits ranging from reducing soil erosion and building soil organic matter to nutrient cycling and scavenging. Another additional benefit they offer is as an additional forage resource. During this webinar, Erika Lundy, Extension Beef Specialist, and Rebecca Vittetoe, Extension Field Agronomist, will share what they’ve learned from the ongoing research at ISU looking at integrating cattle, crops, and cover crops. Lundy’s current extension and research programs are focused on beef cattle nutrition and forage management to improve profitability on the farm level. Vittetoe focuses on the agronomic side with field and forage crop production and integrated pest management with a special emphasis on plant pathology.

CC_NovWebinarFeed expenses continue to be half the cost of production of a beef cattle enterprise. If we are going to have cover crops growing across the state to protect our soil and waters, then adding cattle to graze those green forage acres is another opportunity to capitalize on the benefits that cover crops can provide us. Lundy and Vittetoe said, “One of our primary goals with this research was to answer the question ‘if we graze cover crops, do we still have the soil health benefits that we know we get from incorporating cover crops into row crop acres?’ With the results we are generating from this research, we think the answer is ‘yes!’”

A Certified Crop Adviser board approved continuing education unit (1 CEU: Crop Management) is available for those who are able to watch the live webinar. Information for submitting your CCA/CPAg/CPSS/CPSC number to earn the credit will be provided at the end of the presentation.

Don’t miss this webinar!
DATE: Wednesday, November 20, 2019
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: visit www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars and click the link to join the webinar

More information about this webinar is available at our website. If you can’t watch the webinar live, an archived version will be available on our website:
https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Hilary Pierce

Change to Haying and Grazing Date for Cover Crop Prevented Planting Acres

Risk Management Agency Release, June 20, 2019

Farmers who planted cover crops on prevented plant acres will be permitted to hay, graze or chop those fields earlier than November this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced today. USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) adjusted the 2019 final haying and grazing date from November 1 to September 1 to help farmers who were prevented from planting because of flooding and excess rainfall this spring.

“We recognize farmers were greatly impacted by some of the unprecedented flooding and excessive rain this spring, and we made this one-year adjustment to help farmers with the tough decisions they are facing this year,” said Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey. “This change will make good stewardship of the land easier to accomplish while also providing an opportunity to ensure quality forage is available for livestock this fall.”

RMA has also determined that silage, haylage and baleage should be treated in the same manner as haying and grazing for this year. Producers can hay, graze or cut cover crops for silage, haylage or baleage on prevented plant acres on or after September 1 and still maintain eligibility for their full 2019 prevented planting indemnity.

“These adjustments have been made for 2019 only,” said RMA Administrator Martin Barbre. “RMA will evaluate the prudence of a permanent adjustment moving forward.”

Other USDA Programs

Other USDA agencies are also assisting producers with delayed or prevented planting. USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is extending the deadline to report prevented plant acres in select counties, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is holding special sign-ups for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program in certain states to help with planting cover crops on impacted lands. Contact your local FSA and NRCS offices to learn more.

More Information

Read our frequently asked questions to learn more about prevented plant.

Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents. A list of crop insurance agents is available at all USDA Service Centers and online at the RMA Agent Locator. Learn more about crop insurance and the modern farm safety net at rma.usda.gov.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

It’s Opening Week!

ILFHeader(15-year)Thought I was talking about baseball didn’t you?

This week we kicked off our spring field day/workshop season with a stop in Jefferson. Yesterday we held a Cover Crops and Grazing Cover Crops Field Day at the McNay Research Farm near Chariton.

The leadoff speaker was Chariton farmer Duane Steenhoek, who talked about his experience growing and grazing cover crops.

“The best part is we get over 30 days where the calves didn’t even touch the feeders. They gained 50 pounds from the cover crops.” Steenhoek said. “It’s funny watching them walk around carrying turnips in their mouth, but they love them.”

On deck was Liz Juchems with the Iowa Learning Farms. She shared the main findings from an ILF 10-year study on cover crops and what impact they have on yield. She also hit on planter settings, cost share opportunities and how oats and cereal rye are great for rookies.

Closing out the field day were ISU Extension Field Agronomist Rebecca Vittetoe and ISU Beef Field Specialist Erika Lundy. They spoke to utilizing cover crops as a forage source. They covered seeding methods, the importance of your herbicide program, possible grazing issues and which species to select for maximum grazing benefits.

Lundy says, “If you want to graze in the fall and spring, I recommend planting oats and cereal rye. Because oats will grow quicker in the fall and cereal rye will shoot up in the spring.” 

If you weren’t able to attend this event, there are more opportunities to attend one of our upcoming workshops or field days!

March 28 – Cover Crop and No-Till Workshop
12:00-2:00PM

Titan Machinery
3093 220th St.
Williams, IA 50271
Hamilton County
RSVP: 515-294-5429 or ilf@iastate.edu
Press Release
Flyer

April 9 – Cover Crop and Water Quality Field Day
5:00-7:00PM

Rob Stout Farm
2449 Hemlock Ave
Washington, IA 52353
Washington County
RSVP: 515-294-5429 or ilf@iastate.edu
Press Release
Flyer

April 10 – Cover Crop and No-Till Workshop
12:00-2:00pm
Steier Ag Aviation
202 190th St
Whittemore, IA 50598
Kossuth County
RSVP: 515-294-5429 or ilf@iastate.edu
Press Release
Flyer

 

~Nathan

 

Spring Field Day Season Has Arrived!

ILFHeader(15-year)The 2019 Iowa Learning Farms field day season begins on March 26th and includes a series of five cover crop, no-till and grazing workshops and field days. Please plan to join us at one near you!

March 26 – Cover Crop and No-Till Workshop
12:00-2:00PM

Greene County Extension Office
104 West Washington St
Jefferson, IA 50129
Greene County
RSVP: 515-294-5429 or ilf@iastate.edu
Press Release
Flyer

March 27 – Cover Crop and Grazing Workshop
12:00-2:00PM

McNay Research Farm
45249 170th Ave
Chariton, IA 50049
Lucas County
RSVP: 515-294-5429 or ilf@iastate.edu
Press Release
Flyer

March 28 – Cover Crop and No-Till Workshop
12:00-2:00PM

Titan Machinery
3093 220th St.
Williams, IA 50271
Hamilton County
RSVP: 515-294-5429 or ilf@iastate.edu
Press Release
Flyer

April 9 – Cover Crop and Water Quality Field Day
5:00-7:00PM

Rob Stout Farm
2449 Hemlock Ave
Washington, IA 52353
Washington County
RSVP: 515-294-5429 or ilf@iastate.edu

April 10 – Cover Crop and No-Till Workshop
12:00-2:00PM

Steier Ag Aviation
202 190th St
Whittemore, IA 50598
Kossuth County
RSVP: 515-294-5429 or ilf@iastate.edu

See you there!

Eval Cover (2)

Liz Juchems

Finding the right seeding method – which option is best for you?

ILFHeaderJust ask Clayton County farmers Mark Glawe, Dan Keehner and Brian Keehner! Each have explored different seeding methods and shared their tips for successful cover crop management at our field day on November 29th in Luana. Although their soil types, crop rotations and seeding method vary, they share similar goals for using cover crops in their operations – improved soil health and reduced nutrient losses.

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Left to Right: Farmer Panelists Dan Keehner, Brian Keehner, Mark Glawe, and Eric Palas, Clayton County SWCD Project Coordinator

Mark Glawe began using cover crops in his no-till system near Elkport in 2006 to address soil erosion concerns on his steep slopes. In early September, he seeded about 2/3 of his acres aerially with oats, rye, radishes and rapeseed. These acres are grazed by his cattle herd following harvest and again in the spring. This year, Mark turned his cattle out in October and estimates his additional forage value at $35/acre. In addition to the aerially seeded acres, Mark’s son follows the combine on the remaining acres to drill cereal rye to keep the steep slopes covered between crop seasons.


Dan Keehner first started with aerially seeded cover crops in 2013 on his ground near Monona. Noting disappointment with the consistency of the stand, he hired the cereal rye cover crop to be drilled after harvest in 2014. Similar to this fall, harvest was delayed and the drilling wasn’t completed until mid-November. With limited fall growth but more consistent stand, Dan decided to set up his own cover crop seeding rig for 2015.

Using his vertical tillage implement, Dan mounted an air seeder to seed the cover crop himself following harvest and has covered all of his acres with a cover crop since 2016. He uses both cereal rye and winter wheat to keep the ground covered until planting of his cash crop in the spring.

“I love seeing one crop (cover crop) go down and another (corn/soybeans) come up. You know when you get the rains, that soil is protected,” stated Dan.


Similar to his cousin, Brian Keehner has tried multiple seeding methods but wasn’t satisfied with the results. Through custom innovation, and discussion with a cover crop user in Indiana, Brian has modified his combine with an air delivery system on his corn and soybean heads to seed the cover crops while harvesting. This method fits the needs of his operation by saving time, labor and fuel by combining passes. His next goal for the system is to increase his seed carrying compacity to reduce the number of refill stops.

Regardless of how they seeded their cover crops, all three producers reported 0.5-1.2% increases in their soil organic matter over a five year time-frame. The combination of no-till and cover crops has led to the retention and building of soil organic matter on their lands. The building of organic matter helps improve water holding capacity and retention of soil micro-nutrients needed for crop production. With healthier soils, we have healthier crops and water!

Liz Juchems

Cows and Cover Crops – A Perfect Pair!

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AreSwanson Cattle_Cover Crop2 you interested in grazing cover crops?

Here are some helpful ideas shared by Don Swanson, Henry County Farmer, and Patrick Wall, ISU Extension and Outreach Livestock Specialist, at our field day near Agency on November 20th hosted by the Swanson Farm Partnership on their Heritage Farm.

  • Being organized and ready when the conditions are right to get it seeded in the fall.
  • Use the Pluck Test for turning out cattle
    • If you pull on the rye and the blade breaks free while the roots stay in the ground you can turn the cattle out. If the roots come with, best to wait.
  • Establish a good fence with high-tensile wire and flex posts
  • Cover crops add forage diversity for dry years when pastures and hay are in short supply
  • Fall Grazing  – oats
    • Grows quickly following early season harvest of silage, seed corn or early maturing soybeans, will winter kill
  • Spring Grazing – cereal rye
    • Winter hardy and will generate majority of biomass in the spring
  • Start small – corn acres going to soybeans in the spring #CoverYourBeans

“Getting an extra 30 days of grazing in the spring on cover crops is part of the plan to make cover crops work economically when cost share is done,” stated Don.

Swanson Cattle_Cover Crop4


For more tips about grazing cover crops, visit our resources page and sign up to attend a Fall Grazing Cover Crop Tour near you!

Liz Juchems

New online tool helps farmers assess value of cover crops

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, in partnership with Practical Farmers of Iowa, has launched a new Ag Decision Maker tool on their website to help crop and livestock farmers assess the economics of cover crops in their operations.20150428_092027

The Economics of Cover Crops tool consists of three in-depth budgeting worksheets designed to help farmers analyze the costs and benefits of cover crops – and paths to profitability – in their row crop operations with or without the integration of livestock:

  • Cover Crops Budget looks at the economics of cover crops in systems without grazing or harvesting
  • Grazing Cover Crops Budget estimates the costs and benefits with grazing or harvesting for feed
  • Grazing Cover Crops Results uses farmers’ farm data to calculate the actual economic value of grazing or harvesting cover crops from the prior year

The unique three-in-one tool was developed to let farmers see the potential added value they could gain when cover crops are used for forage. Recent Practical Farmers of Iowa on farm research has found that, when properly managed, grazing cover crops can result in sizeable profits within the first year.

The worksheets are available online and were created with funding by Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Water Quality Initiative.

Help available to use the tool

To ensure farmers feel confident using the new tool, Meghan Filbert, Livestock Coordinator with Practical Farmers of Iowa, is available to help farmers gets started. Contact her at (515) 232-5661 or meghan@practicalfarmers.org with questions or to request assistance working with the tool.

Liz Juchems