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

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. Brendon 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!


Brendon 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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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.


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