Cornfield2A research specialist with Practical Farmers of Iowa is calling on all row-crop farmers who raise cattle to use cover crops. Sarah Carlson has been studying cover crops since 2008.

“There’s multiple places where cover crops and cattle just make so much sense,” Carlson said.

“For example, in the fall, you fly on a cover crop into standing corn. You harvest that corn and have the green material out there with those corn stalks. That green material is really lush, so it’s going to help that cow eat even more corn stalks.”

The corn stalks are full of carbon and the green, nitrogen-rich cover crop helps cattle digest and eat more stalks, therefore saving on hay costs. Carlson says, as the cow processes all the carbon, that leads to more benefits.

“It deposits its manure, so the end credits that you could take going back to corn (like corn following corn) you could be able to reduce nitrogen and not take the yield hit we see in corn on corn because the cow would’ve processed all that carbon,” Carlson explained.

She says fall grazing of cover crops should be a “no-brainer” for cattle producers, and there are ways to work around some of the challenges of spring grazing, like compaction from the cows.

(Reporting by Mark Dorenkamp, Brownfield Ag News)