The $200 Cover Crop Bump

Jeff Rasawehr (pronounced "Raise -a- veer") farms 1500 acres in West Central Ohio, raising corn, soybeans, wheat, hay, and some beef.  His goal is to produce beef in an ecologically sustainable way, and, of course, to be financially viable.  His path towards that goal involves cover crops that improve his soil and become forage for his cattle.  He calculates the result as a $200 per acre bump in profitability. Last week as he rode through Iowa on his way to the National Hay and Forage Expo, we took advantage of his drive time to talk by phone about how this works for him. Thirteen years ago, Jeff started planting cover crops. He'd been farming for 17 years, since he was 16, and he'd started to see that the organic matter content of his soil was on the decline. All that time, he'd been baling hay and forage.  The realization that 17 years of haying had been changing his soil hit home, and turned into an effort to fix the problem by using cover crops in his rotation for soil remediation. Jeff noticed that "if you maintain soil biology and soil health, phosphorus in soil goes up." Improving soil biology makes the nutrients in the soil more available. Soil organisms will consume and

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4 thoughts on “The $200 Cover Crop Bump

  1. I wanted to comment on your Memorial Day article and video, but Do you turn off comments after a month or so? If not, I’m once again showing my Techno. Savvi-osity!
    Thanks for opening my eyes once again (I’m up past midnight reading on pasture. Good stuff!

  2. A good article this week…Rachel!

    We drill or broadcast a diverse cool season seed blend into mixed tame pasture (perennial an annual) each late summer/fall….the mix contains (cereal rye, oats, radish, hairy vetch, winter peas…..5-6 varieties small seed legume and brassica). Several grazings from fall through winter are afforded….options to graze out, high density treading at heading for OM, or defered grazing in spring (improved weed control, more warm season perennial growth, and/or for bird nesting/fawning cover).

    The next step we would like to take is to look at reseeding potential of theses mixes so that annual seed costs can be reduced or eliminated. I wouldn’t mind having any species in the mix as a weed in pasture!

    So my question…do you know of anyone letting cover crops go to seed in their pastures?….what have been the adv and dis of such?

    1. Doug-
      I am seriously new at this, but I started leasing a property that had a field of annual rye/hairy vetch sown on it. The property is slated for development, so I don’t want to put a lot of money into improving soils, but I want decent grazing for my animals. The field went to seed last year & the majority of it (rye & vetch) has come back this year. There are more weeds. I had thought about putting some barley down that I had, but never got to it. I think this fall, I will do a cover crop mix on it to help keep the weeds down.

    2. A cover crop that is part of your pasture that you desire to continue in your pasture——allows for letting it seed itself—–there is nothing wrong with and it is a sustainable practice to let covers seed themselves in a pasture situation—-I do it with clovers all the time

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