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Cattle Grazing Cover Crops – How Crop Growers and Graziers Can Work Together

By   /  April 19, 2021  /  3 Comments

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This 1:57 minute video is a good look at how graziers and crop growers can work together for the benefit of each other and the soil. We visit Brendon Rockey of Rockey Farms, a potato farmer in the San Luis Valley of southwest Colorado. Brandon provides an example of how he developed the agreement with a neighboring grazier. You can watch the short video or read the transcript below. Enjoy!

Transcript:

Brandon Rockey: I’m not interested in owning the cattle myself. I’d rather work with the rancher on that. I just need the cattle out there for one month out of the year. I don’t want to mess with them the other 11 months. So that’s why it works good for me to work with the rancher.

The only way it was going to work is if it  was going to work for both of us. Otherwise it was only going to work for one year, if one guy was getting all the gain and it was hurting the other guy. So we just sat down and I just kind of had my list of goals. I said, “Here’s what I need to accomplish as far the crop production.” Dealing from the farmer’s side, “I need these goals accomplished.”

He said, “OK, here’s what I need.”

And so we had to sit there, and that was the hardest part – was figuring out timing. You know, my ideal time I would have had them in and out of here already. If they could come through one day, that would be great for me, but that’s not realistic.

So, he had to figure out, “Well you have this many acres. If I do this many head, we can cycle through this many days.” And then we had to negotiate a little bit.

He’s paying me some pasture rent for it. So he had kind of his idea on what he should pay. I kind of had my idea in the back of my head. I said, “Let’s just try it this first year, let’s see what we come up with.” He wrote me a check a at the end of the year and I said, “That’s almost exactly what I was thinking.”

And for me, we’re not making a lot of money off of having the livestock off there. But what it is doing is it’s enough to offset my expense of growing that cover crop. I’m going to grow the cover crop no matter what, so if i can bring the livestock out there and he takes care of the expense of growing that cover crop, that’s still supports me economically. And it supports him too. Because he’s going to have to go get that feed from somewhere anyways. I’d rather do that than to harvest the crop, take it to his cows, then he ends up with a pile of manure that we have to ship back. Look at how much energy and diesel and labor we’re saving Just by having the cattle right there on the ground.We’re shortening the poop loop and keeping it really tight.

It was really important for me to implement that.

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About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

3 Comments

  1. Curt Gesch says:

    Thank you to Mr. Rockey for sharing the reasonable way you came to an agreement. Your model will be something I try to emulate.

  2. Curt Hamblin says:

    Green Cover (Seeds) – Bladen,NE has released their 7th Edition “Soil Health Resource Guide” On page 30 of that guide is an article on “Winter Stock Pile Grazing” which advocates using a sorghum-based mix as a base. Can you comment on this ? I’m confused about the prussic acid of frozen sorghum.

    Ref: https://beef-cattle.extension.org/can-you-graze-cattle-on-a-sudangrass-or-sorghum-sudangrass-pasture-after-a-freeze/

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