Grazing Cover Crops for Winter Feed, 2015 Update

Published Dec 7, 2015

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.

Key findings:

Grazing cover crops and crop residue in late fall delayed the onset of regular hay feeding. Cows maintained body condition and calves met average daily gain goals while grazing cover crops and crop residue. 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 establishment costs.