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Through our Livestock Program, we work with farmers to conduct on-farm research, hold pasture walks and field days, and host educational events based on priorities identified by our livestock farmer members.
Practical Farmers’ Livestock Program represents a diverse suite of livestock farmers, encompassing beef cattle, swine, poultry, sheep, goat and dairy operations. Many of these farmers are raising livestock on pasture and practicing regenerative farming practices such as rotational grazing, livestock and crop integration and grass finishing.
Through the Livestock Program, we seek to help members become more profitable and sustainable in their operations by organizing events and conducting research based on member input and priorities. Grazing cover crops, diverse perennial and annual forages, feeding small grains to swine and soil health through livestock integration have been identified as priorities in recent years.
We believe livestock keep farms and communities in balance. PFI’s founder, Dick Thompson, is remembered for saying “When the cow leaves the farm, the oats and hay crops leave also and the decline of rural communities has begun.”
2023 Grazing Consultations
Practical Farmers is offering grazing consultation calls with Livestock Viability Manager Margaret Chamas to farmers interested in taking their management to the next level – whether that’s grazing for the first time, going from monthly to weekly moves or setting up a super-intensive system with multiple paddock shifts a day.
2023 Grazing Infrastructure Cost-Share
The grazing cost-share supports aspiring or existing graziers who wish to adopt regenerative grazing practices that improve forage, soil and water quality. The cost-share also helps them expand their livestock enterprises through improved grazing management. The application period for 2023 has ended.
Farm Business Coaching Assistance
The Farm Business Coaching Assistance program aims to help farmers strengthen their businesses through in-depth consultations with experts. The process begins with a farm business assessment to identify both internal and external areas of opportunity.
The findings guide the coaching process by identifying which approaches will help farmers strengthen those areas, which may range from improved marketing plans to upgraded financial record-keeping systems, improved web presence and more.
Local Foods Purchasing Assistance Program — Now Open!
The Iowa Local Foods Purchasing Assistance Program will buy local food from Iowa’s producers for distribution to Iowans in under-resourced communities.
If you produce local food in Iowa and are interested in selling your raw agricultural products or value-added products into the Iowa LFPA program, submit this producer registration form to receive more information on becoming an LFPA vendor. All local food farmers are encouraged to apply, including beginning farmers, smaller-scale producers, and farmers who primarily distribute through CSAs or share boxes.
Products eligible for sale to the Iowa LFPA include: produce, grains, legumes, dairy, meat, mushrooms, eggs, honey, maple syrup, and value added products containing at least 51% locally-produced raw product. Products must be produced within the state of Iowa or in the immediate bordering counties to be eligible for sale into LFPA.
Registration should take about 15 minutes; please have any relevant licenses, food safety certificates, and W9 forms available as you complete the form.
Research is one of the key components of PFI’s mission. Farmer-researchers in the cooperators program envision and implement on-farm research projects with the assistance of the livestock coordinator. Data is analyzed and reported each winter at the Cooperator’s Meeting. Current research projects include pasture monitoring and improvement, grazing cover crops, swine feeding trials, recordkeeping projects, small ruminant mineral feeding trials, experimenting with poultry rations; among others. Research reports can be accessed below. Interested in becoming a cooperator, or have an idea for a project? Contact Amos Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (515) 232-5661.
Field days and pasture walks
PFI believes in farmer-led learning and information-sharing. The most popular part of our programming is the field day offerings. Members host the events on their farms, providing not just tours but open and honest information about their management practices, what has (or hasn’t worked), and their plans for the future. Field days sometimes feature hands-on opportunities such as poultry processing, fence construction, and tree planting. See our Field Day Guide for more information regarding upcoming dates or our Livestock Field Days flyer.
Workshops, webinars, and conferences
The Annual Conference in January is the yearly pinnacle of PFI events. Both PFI members and invited speakers share their knowledge and expertise over nearly three days of workshops and lectures. Past invited speakers include Gabe Brown, Neil Dennis, Todd Churchill, Greg Judy, Jim Elizando, Abe Collins and Jim VanDerPol.
Workshops are offered just prior to the Annual Conference and occasionally throughout the year. Past workshops include basic background information on soils, Holistic Management, composting, permaculture, financial record keeping and tractor and equipment use.
Midwest Grazing Exchange
Expanding integrated crop-livestock systems can offer a range of benefits for farmers, the environment and rural communities. But accessing land to graze, or finding livestock farmers to partner with, can be a barrier.
The Midwest Grazing Exchange is a free matchmaking service that aims to connect graziers seeking land to graze with landowners in six Midwestern states. It was created to help farmers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin find livestock or land to graze.
Throughout the year, PFI holds farminars; webinars featuring expert and novice farmers paired up to discuss a specific topic. Farminars are recorded and archived for future viewing, so even if you miss the premier event, you can check them out later! Viewers are able to ask questions of the pair as the experienced farmer offers insights to the other. Past farminars include raising and marketing hogs through Niman Ranch, genetics and selection in beef cattle, profitable poultry production, meat pricing, and getting started in dairy farming.
Several factsheets have been prepared to assist livestock farmers in managing their operations. Click on the links to download the sheets.
- Enterprise Budgets for Livestock Operations
- Enterprise Budget Spreadsheet
- Lease considerations for grazing cover crops
- Measuring Cover Crop Biomass
- Contract Grazing of Cover Crops Factsheet
- Livestock and Cover Crops
- Herbicide Use and Cover Crops
- Corn Herbicides and Grazing Restrictions
- Soybean Herbicides and Grazing Restrictions
- Grazing for Landowners: Livestock as a Tool for Land Management