Frank Comments: Grazing, Haying Adds Value

A RECENT No-Till Farmer poll shows 19% of respondents growing cover crops are grazing livestock on at least a portion of their acres. While there are many benefits for utilizing cover crops in a no-till rotation, these farmers are turning these forages into added profits.

Data from a 2015 University of Nebraska survey indicates an even higher percentage of growers are grazing or haying their cover crops. Some 49% of farmers grazed a portion of their cover crop acres, while 21% grazed all of their cover crop ground.

When listing the major benefits of growing cover crops, 56% of the Nebraska growers indicated forage production was important. Some 79% of growers felt building soil organic matter was important, followed by 70% who listed erosion control and 60% who listed improvements in soil water-holding capacity as major benefits.

Extra Beef Income

Based on the Nebraska results, producing forage was among the top five most desired benefits with seeding cover crops. And with tighter margins, more producers may be thinking about grazing or taking hay off cover crop ground to offset extra expenses, while still capturing longer-term cover crop benefits.

Among growers who seeded cover crops, 46% earned a portion of their farm income from livestock production. Since corn silage is important to most livestock producers and leaves little residue on the soil surface, 77% of the corn silage acres were seeded to cover crops.

But before you decide to start cashing in on forage production from cover-cropped acres, there are several…

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Frank Lessiter

Frank Lessiter has served as editor of No-Till Farmer since the publication was launched in November of 1972. Raised on a six-generation Michigan Centennial Farm, he has spent his entire career in agricultural journalism. Lessiter is a dairy science graduate from Michigan State University.

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