Friday, July 19, 2024
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Tips for Grazing Cover Crops

When we graze cover-crops we always need to be considering both meeting the livestock needs as well as soil building objectives. The more cover-crop yield you can produce, the more biomass you can afford to leave behind.

Here is an example of grazing BMR sorghum yielding over 180 AUD/acre while leaving well over one ton of biomass on the ground. This was done with two grazing events. One in the green season and one in the dormant season.

It can be easy to graze too severely especially in the green season. This part of the field does not have enough residue left on the ground. If you want to build soil, you need to be prepared to ‘waste’ a little more grass.

The harvest here was about 120 AUD/acre. Where the manager allowed only 90 AUD/acre, the soil was better protected with trampled residue. This was in early August.

Here are dry cows grazing regrowth on the same field in November. With brown forage, we have a better opportunity to leave more residue on the ground.

The harvest here on the regrowth is just over 90 AUD/acre.

And What About the Economics?

This crop had a production cost of $50/acre and grazing cost of about $6/acre for a total of $56/acre. With 180 AUD/acre harvest, the cost per AUD is only 31 cents. That is less than $10/AUM which is well below typical AUM grazing rates.

In Nebraska where these photos were taken, pasture grazing rates can be over $50/AUM. Grazing cover-crops can be a real bargain.

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Jim Gerrish
Jim Gerrish
Jim Gerrish is the author of "Management-Intensive Grazing: The Grassroots of Grass Farming" and "Kick the Hay Habit: A Practical Guide to Year-around Grazing" and is a popular speaker at conferences around the world. His company, American GrazingLands Services LLC is dedicated to improving the health and sustainable productivity of grazing lands around the world through the use of Management-intensive Grazing practices. They work with small farms, large ranches, government agencies and NGO's to promote economically and environmentally sustainable grazing operations and believe healthy farms and ranches are the basis of healthy communities and healthy consumers. Visit their website to find out more about their consulting services and grazing management tools, including electric fencing, stock water systems, forage seed, and other management tools.


  1. Jim I am interested in the total gain on that cover crop. Given the time frame if they even gained 3/4 lb./day that’s 135 lbs per animal. At $1.10 per pound that is $148.50 worth of beef added to just one animal. Pretty easy to justify the $56/ac cost from that angle too.

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