Grazing on Cover Crops

Jamie) Thanks for staying with us! Now Duane and Jaymelynn talk about grazing cattle on a cropping enterprise to diversify your operation.
(Dane) Duane Toews joining you once again with AGam in Kansas. And an opportunity while at the Kansas Grassland and Forage Conference in Manhattan to catch up with Jaymelynn Farney from the southeast part of the state for K-State Research and Extension. And Jaymelynn you talked to growers about some opportunities as far as the livestock enterprise being a part of cover crops. Can you give us a little synopsis of some of the things that you talked to the growers about? (Jaymelynn) Yes sir, I can. One thing is putting cattle within your cropping enterprise is a way to diversify your operation, to be able to generate some revenue that you might not necessarily see, just directly with the cover crops. Now these cover crops that are grazed by cattle are very high quality forages. And as such when they are grazed by cattle, we should probably call them a forage crop instead of a cover crop. But most of them that are planted your grasses, barley, wheat, triticale, oats, rye, etc. offer more than 20 percent crude protein which is significantly higher than any class of livestock including a lactating dairy cow. As well, brassicas are very common, your turnips, radish, rape, kale, etc. are very common in Kansas, provide a lot of tonnage, also very high quality, high energy, high protein feed for cattle. (Duane) Jaymelynn, we think about the cost of doing so, there will be those purists out there I’m sure that felt like the cover crops were intended to be a soil amendment or improvement. And maybe a purist wouldn’t like to see a livestock operation grazing those off. But it sounds like maybe there’s some research that says it can be mutually beneficial. (Jaymelynn) Yes. If you think about the bovine, what goes in and isn’t utilized for tissue growth eventually comes back out in the form of a very high nitrogen, high quality, easy to be incorporate back into the soil, fecal matter and urine. So, even though from an organic matter and nitrogen perspective, cattle provide a lot of it. There’s actually research out there that shows that just putting cattle within the system, you can incorporate three times as much nitrogen into the soil down to a meter or three feet deep versus not having cattle. So, incorporating cattle shouldn’t negatively impact your soil benefits. It might actually speed up some of the processes, especially from the organic matter perspective. Cattle have already done the hard work. Fecal matter is already digested, ready for the soil microbes. (Duane) Our thanks to Jaymelynn Farney from K-State Research and Extension in the southeast part of the state, at the Kansas Grassland and Forage Conference here in Manhattan, Kansas, at their winter meetings. Jamie, back to you.
(Jamie) Be sure and come back after the break for this week’s Kansas Farm Bureau Legislative Update with Ryan Flickner.

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