Finding ways to integrate livestock back on the landscape has the potential to significantly benefit farmers, the environment and rural communities. From creating opportunities for beginning farmers, to improving the soil, to helping make cover crops profitable, livestock are often a missing piece in Midwestern agricultural systems, where the grazing of vast herds of bison and elk were vital parts of the historical ecosystem.
Cover crops can be an on-ramp to the use of regenerative practices that support soil health and water quality. Wallace Center’s Pasture Project has promoted use of cover crops for a number of years. Pasture Project’s work on cover crop grazing previously focused on working with farmers in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri to run trials to understand the environmental and economic impacts of the practice. That phase of the project found that grazing cover crops can improve soil fertility and provide significant cost savings. Results from those trials can be reviewed in the reports linked below.
As we’ve continued to build the case for cover crop grazing, our strategies have shifted from farm-level to systems-wide advocacy. Accessing land to graze, or finding livestock farmers to partner with, can be a barrier to expanding integrated crop-livestock systems. A new website by Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Wallace Center seeks to address this challenge. Through Midwest Grazing Exchange, graziers can search for forage to graze and landowners can search for livestock to graze their land.
Wallace Center is currently focused on using the Exchange to further our work on building the case for grazing cover crops. Contract grazing is a common entry point for broader adoption of grazing cover crops, and featuring contract grazing success stories through the Exchange further builds the case for cover crop grazing as a valuable enterprise.
Years Active: 2020 – present
Full Trial Report: Benefits of Planting and Grazing Diverse Cover Crops >>
Read the full results of the recent grazing cover crops trial conducted by the Pasture Project, Land Stewardship Project, Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Sustainable Farming Association.
Grazing Cover Crops How-To Guide >>
Read Pasture Project’s how-to guide on grazing cover crops – focused on helping farmers get started with the practice to leverage soil health and economic benefits through winter livestock grazing.
Technical Research Bulletin: Benefits of Planting and Grazing Diverse Cover Crops ..
Integrating cattle grazing on winter cover crops can provide significant soil health and on-farm economic benefits, particularly when cover crop mixes are combined with adaptive grazing practices. This project studied three years of cover crop and livestock integration on 8 cooperating farms in Minnesota and Iowa.
Cover Crop Grazing Webinars >>
Check out Pasture Project’s library of cover crop grazing webinars – including webinars on seed selection, contract grazing, and setting the right management goals.
Grazing Cover Crops Video Tutorials >>
This video tutorial series on grazing cover crops features a set of 14 videos with expert tips and advice from farmers and adaptive grazing expert, Dr. Allen Williams. The videos cover everything from the benefits of cover crops to fencing and watering systems to animal nutrition when grazing cover crops.