Quality Forage, Lower Cost of Gain with No-Till, Cover Crop System

Innovative no-tiller and cowman Jake Miller uses strip grazing and cover crop mixes to diversify food sources for his no-tilled cow-calf operation and improve soil quality.

Growers have long enjoyed the benefits of using no-till and cover crops to enhance soil fertility, prevent wind and water erosion and improve production efficiency. 

More cattle producers have also converted their traditional grazing programs to include cover crop cocktails to help extend grazing periods, eliminate or reduce supplemental feeding, improve their land and still generate solid beef production.

Cattle- and cover-crop-savvy Jake Miller is an innovative cowman in that group. At only 28 he’s part of a Simmental-Angus cow-calf operation in southwest Nebraska in Culbertson. He’s a third-generation rancher who has incorporated no-till programs that are paying off in the rugged rangeland. 

When he returned to the ranch from attending Fort Hayes (Kansas) State College in 2013, he bought his grandfather’s portion of the farm and ranch. His family’s operation includes about 4,600 acres of native grass and forage blends. 

The family had farmed about 600 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat but converted nearly all that land to grazing the past few years. 

“Low crop prices and high production costs led us to switch to 100% cattle grazing,” Miller told attendees at the No-till on the Plains Winter Conference earlier this year. “We sold the combine with no regrets.”

Miller says his family had started an aggressive grazing program about 20 years ago, noting his father and grandfather were very good at rotational grazing. Native grasses that include smooth brome, cheatgrass, side oats grama, short and tall bluestem and switchgrass are part of his system. 

They currently run…

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