Grazing Cover Crops

This warm fall weather has provided excellent conditions for cover crop growth. If cover crops were seeded early enough (such as in August or September), they may provide enough biomass for fall or winter grazing.  This has the potential to increase the economic value of these cover crops as long as you allow for a minimum of 30-45 days of growth before grazing.  Be sure to leave enough surface residue to capture snow and protect against erosion.  Soil compaction can be reduced by removing livestock if soil conditions are too wet or by utilizing rotational grazing.

The amount of cover crop biomass for grazing will be dependent on seeding date, seeding rate, weather, and species planted.  With the warm weather we have had lately, all methods of seeding seem to be generating good results.  However, it is important for producers to consider restrictions on labels of herbicides used earlier in the growing season and how that may limit cover crop grazing. Please check label restrictions or read the following publications: ISU Extension Publication entitled “Herbicide use may restrict grazing options for cover crops”, the University of Wisconsin Extension publication “Herbicide Rotation Restrictions in Forage and Cover Cropping Systems“, or the Penn State publication “Herbicide Persistence and Rotation to Cover Crops“.