Person: Dave and Meg Schmidt
Feeding cows during the winter is the
greatest expense for most grassbased
• Grazing cover crops and stockpiled
pastures provides low-cost feed during
times farmers would normally be
• For many years, Dave and Meg
Schmidt have recorded grazing
moves and the amount of hay they
fed to the herd.
• From 2013 to 2017, they experimented
with feeding cover crops,
crop residue and stockpiled pastures
to cut down on the amount of hay
• During the winters of 2013-2014
and 2014-2015, cover crops and
crop residue provided almost half
of the winter feed needs for the
• During the winter of 2015-2016,
the most hay was fed, because
the farmers were not able to plant
cover crops the season prior.
• The least hay was fed in 2016-2017,
due to a combination of grazing
stockpiled pastures along with
cover crops and crop residue.
• Calf average daily gains were greatest
• Diverse winter forage sources
allow the Schmidts to feed less hay,
increase the size of their herd and
December 6, 2017
In a Nutshell
• Cover crops and summer annual
forage mixes can provide a host of
benefits to annual cropping systems:
add biodiversity, reduce soil erosion,
reduce nutrient loss, increase soil
organic matter and reduce weed pressure.
• Dave and Meg Schmidt evaluated the
effect of applying chicken litter to a
cereal rye + hairy vetch cover crop
and grazing the cover crop ahead of
establishing a summer annual forage
• Grazing the cereal rye + hairy vetch
cover crop resulted in more biomass
production than where not grazed.
• The application of chicken litter did
not affect cover crop growth or summer
annual forage biomass production.
• Hairy vetch in the cover crop successfully
established (seeded in late August
2015) and may have contributed a
substantial amount of N to the succeeding
summer annual forage crop.
October 25, 2016
August 19, 2016
Objective: 1) Should chicken litter be applied to cereal rye+hairy vetch cover crop to maximize cover crop biomass and provide N for the summer annual forage mix? 2) How will fall grazing of the cover crops affect performance the following year ahead of the summer forage mix?
June 28, 2016
In a Nutshell
• Cover crops can provide a high-quality,
low-cost feed during times when farmers
would normally be feeding hay and
other stored forages.
• Dave and Meg Schmidt planted and
grazed cover crops and crop residue
to extend their grazing season and
reduce hay expenses.
• Over four winter seasons, they have
maintained animal performance
through feeding a combination of hay
and winter grazing.
• Grazing cover crops and crop residue
in late fall delayed the onset of regular
• Cows maintained body condition
and calves met average daily gain
goals while grazing cover crops and
• Utilizing cover crops as forage
allowed the Schmidts to feed less
hay than previous years, while also
increasing their herd size.
• Graziers should consider entering
into cost-share agreements with row
crop neighbors to reduce cover crop
December 7, 2015
Cereal rye, oats and other cool-season,
small grains grass species have been
proven as effective cover crops in Iowa
crop production systems.
• Cooperators screened pure seedings
and mixtures of grass, legume and
brassica cover crops for ground cover
and aboveground biomass production
in small, hand-seeded plots across the
• Cereal rye and mustard tended to produce
the most amount of fall ground
• Cereal rye and field pennycress were
the only entries to consistently overwinter
and produce spring growth.
• Field pennycress may be a good option
for those in corn-soybean systems
looking to add diversity to their practice
of cover cropping.
July 16, 2015
Objective: To experiment with seeding different forages into existing pastures and monitor performance of livestock, forage and the soil.
July 7, 2015
Good management is essential to
maintaining productive pastures and
encouraging high performance.
• Dave and Meg Schmidt tracked the
management of their pastures, animal
performance, and rates of gain.
• 2014 featured good weather and
improved rotational grazing, resulting
in more animal grazing days and
better calf growth.
• Managed grazing has improved
animal health and gain.
• Forage diversity and soil health can
be improved with managed grazing.
• Short-season annual forages provide
livestock feed during key periods,
when perennials are don’t.
April 30, 2015
Face and horn flies can damage
livestock health and producer profits
through the spread of disease and irritation
• Cooperators counted flies on their
cattle to determine efficacy of control
methods and to identify degrees of fly
load that negatively impact cattle.
• Over time, reduction in fly load has
been observed, seemingly due to selection
of cattle and rotational grazing,
along with some targeted fly control
• Environmental factors (windspeed, humidity,
temperature, cloud cover) did
not seem to correlate with fly load.
• Certain animals seem to be more
prone to high fly loads; this may be
due to color, genetics, or breed.
• Cattle behavior (bunching, kicking,
stomping, tail flicking) was not strongly
associated with fly load, although
fly load was below accepted economic
threshold levels in 2014.
April 29, 2015
Feeding cows during the winter is
often expensive, requiring investment
in stored feeds like hay and extra labor
from the producer.
• In addition to the numerous benefits
of cover crops for row crop farmers,
livestock can graze the forage, providing
a high-quality and low-cost feed
during times of low feed supplies.
• Dave and Meg Schmidt planted cover
crops and grazed crop residues to reduce
expenses and keep their animals
out on pasture.
• Over three winter seasons, they have
maintained animal performance and
are starting to see reduced winter feed
• Planting cover crops and utilizing
crop residue in the late fall has
delayed the onset of regular hay
• Calf average daily gain over the
winter has improved over the years,
implying better nutrition, management,
• Feeding hay can be successfully offset
by cover crops and crop residues.
November 1, 2014