Grazing Management Practices to Enhance Soil Health in the Northern Great Plains

Progress report for LNC19-426

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $198,168.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Grant Recipient: North Dakota State University
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Miranda Meehan
North Dakota State University
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Project Information

Summary:

Cover crops have gained popularity as a practice implemented by producers in North Dakota to improve soil health, increase soil nutrients and soil microbial populations, reduce variability in crop yields, increase crop yields, reduce soil erosion, and increase forage options for livestock. Despite the ecological benefits of incorporating cover crops into a system, the economic benefits may not be realized if livestock are not incorporated into the system. In recent years, producers have expressed an increased interest in integrated crop livestock systems (ICLS) due to their ecological and economical returns. Livestock management decisions, such as stocking rate, utilization and stock density have the potential to impact the environmental and economic sustainability of ICLSs. There is a limited amount of information to support producers in the Northern Great Plains and other semi-arid regions in making these important management decisions. Extension professionals receive numerous inquiries from producers regarding grazing management of cover crops: the most common being related to stocking rate, stock density, and residue management. This producer lead demonstration project will provide insight to aid in the development of best management practices for managing grazing livestock in ICLSs to enhance soil health (physical, chemical and biological properties), livestock production, crop production and economic sustainability. The objective of this project is to identify the impacts of livestock grazing management on the environmental and economic sustainability of an ICLS. Specifically, the influence of stock density and forage utilization of grazing livestock on 1) soil physical,  chemical and biological properties, 2 ) crop production, 3) livestock production and 4) economics. To evaluate the effects of stock density, an annual forage crop will be subjected to the following grazing density treatments:  1) moderate and 2) high.  Additionally, two forage utilization rates will be evaluated 1) 50% and 2) 75%. A non-grazed area will serve as the control.  Project results will be disseminated through cafe talks, workshops, tours, bulletins, news articles, videos, and social media. This producer lead demonstration project will provide insight to aid in the development of best management practices for managing grazing livestock in ICLSs to enhance soil health (physical, chemical and biological properties), livestock production, crop production and economic sustainability.

Project Objectives:

The objective of this project is to identify the impacts of livestock grazing management on the environmental and economic sustainability of an ICLS. Specifically, the influence of stock density and forage utilization of grazing livestock on 1) soil physical and chemical properties, 2 ) crop production, 3) livestock production and 4) economics. This project will provide valuable information on the effects of different grazing management strategies in ICLSs, assisting producers in making management decisions. Project results will be disseminated through cafe talks, workshops, tours, bulletins, news articles, videos, and social media.

Introduction:

Cover crops have gained popularity as a practice implemented by producers across the United States. According to the USDA Census of Agriculture 15.4 million acres were planted to cover crops in 2017, up 50% from the 10.3 million acres in 2012 (USDA, 2019; USDA, 2014). North Dakota is no exception to this trend with producers incorporating cover crops to improve soil health and increase crop production (USDA, 2019; CTIC, 2017). Despite the ecological benefits of incorporating cover crops into a system, the economic benefits may not be realized if livestock are not incorporated into the system (Costa et al., 2014; Franzluebber and Stuedemann, 2015).

The benefits of integrated crop and livestock systems (ICLSs) include enhanced nutrient cycling as well as reduced inputs and livestock feeding costs. The majority of research evaluating ICLSs has been conducted in regions characterized by humid climates. Research on the ecological impacts of ICLSs in semi-arid ecosystems, such as the Northern Great Plains is limited (Faust et al., 2018).

Livestock management decisions, such as stocking rates, stock density and utilization have the potential to impact the environmental and economic sustainability of ICLSs. Limited information is available to producers in the Northern Great Plains to help make these management decisions. This producer-led demonstration project will aid in the development of best management practices for managing grazing livestock in ICLSs to enhance soil health, livestock production, crop production and economic sustainability.

Cooperators

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Research

Hypothesis:

Stock density and forage utilization of grazing livestock will increase the environmental and economic sustainability of annual crop systems as a result of 1) enhanced soil physical, chemical and biological properties, 2) increased crop production, 3) increased livestock production and 4) reduced financial inputs.

Materials and methods:

A three-year ICLS project was initiated during the spring of 2020. NDSU Extension partnered with producers to establish six demonstration sites located in central North Dakota, along with a host site on the main campus of NDSU. An annual forage crop was subjected to two grazing density treatments: 1) moderate and 2) high. Additionally, two forage utilization rates were evaluated: 1) 50% and 2) 75%. A non-grazed treatment served as the control. Treatments will be imposed for two years, followed by a cash crop.

Each location was developed to test grazing density treatments in a split-plot design. Three producers demonstrated the high stock density at two utilization rates (50% and 75%), while three producers demonstrated the moderate stock density at the same two utilization rates. The Fargo location provided a study of all treatments and utilization rates.

Forage Establishment

The annual forage crop planted by mid-June of 2020 and 2021 included and will include oats, sorghum sudangrass, foxtail millet, sunflower, radish, kale, turnip, flax and forage pea seed seeded at a rate of 18, 3, 2, 1.5, 1, 0.75, 0.75, 2 and 10 lbs/ac, respectively. Following two years of an annual forage crop, the planned cash crop will be corn planted in the spring of 2022.

Livestock and Grazing Management

Cattle were randomly assigned to grazing density treatments and carrying capacities were determined based on available forage production and estimated utilization. Stocking rates were determined by dividing the available forage by anticipated dry matter intake per day, then dividing by 30 days of planned grazing to predict the number of cows per plot. The available forage for 50% and 75% utilization treatments was calculated at 35% and 50% of the total forage produced, respectively (Meehan et al., 2018). The estimated dry matter intake was based on recommendations in the Beef Cattle Handbook (National Research Council, 2016). The moderate stock density was based on the recommended stocking rate for a 30 day period. The high stock density was set at double the moderate stock density and the grazing period reduced so as to ensure the treatment was not overgrazed. During 2020, turnout dates ranged from late August to early October.

Electric poly-wire and temporary posts were utilized as portable cross-fence to limit-graze livestock and maintain grazing efficiency. Each treatment was divided into four sections. Windbreak shelters were available for use and continued access to water was provided.

Soil Sampling

Soil samples were collected to characterize physical, chemical and biological properties. Soil physical properties included bulk density, infiltration and soil aggregate stability collected pre- and post-treatment. Six sub-samples were collected from a similar soil series within each treatment prior to seeding of annual forage crop. Samples were also collected from a nearby location that was managed as part of a traditional cash crop system. Soil chemical properties included soil nutrients, pH and organic matter collected annually with assessment of nutrient distribution occurring pre- and post-treatment only. Sub-samples for nutrient distribution were collected from each 1 acre sub-plot, whereas once yearly levels were extracted from a similar soil series within each treatment. Above ground residue was gently removed at each sampling site prior to conducting the sampling technique.

A soil core sampler with hammer attachment was used to measure bulk density at a depth of 0-6 inches. In calculating bulk density, the weight of the oven-dried soil was divided by the volume of the ring to determine lb/ft3.

Soil infiltration was determined by utilizing the Cornell Sprinkle Infiltrometer system (van Es and Shindelbeck, 2003). It consists of a portable rainfall simulator that is placed onto a single 9.5 inch inner diameter infiltration ring and allows for application of a simulated rainfall event. Field-saturated infiltrability reflects the steady-state infiltration capacity of the soil, after wet-up. It is based on the data collected at the end of the measurement period, or whenever steady-state conditions occur. Since the apparatus has a single ring, conversion factors from Reynolds and Elrick (1990) are needed to account for the three-dimensional flow at the bottom of the ring.

Soil aggregate stability samples were collected with a tiling spade to a depth of 0-6 inches. A manual wet sieving method by Six et al. (1998) was used to develop an automated method for assessing aggregate stability. Due to variation in soil across locations, the sand correction procedure by Mikha and Rice (2004) was applied to each sample to remove the sand fraction from the water stable aggregates total.

Soil nitrate nitrogen (NO3-N), carbon (C), phosphorus (P), potassium, pH, organic matter (OM), sulfate-sulfur (SO4-S), zinc and copper (Cu) were determined from samples collected at 0-6 and 6-12 inches with a 0.7 inch diameter soil probe. Soil nitrates (Vendrell and Zupancic, 2008) were measured using the Brinkmann PC910 Colorimeter. This colorimeter was also used to determine levels of P after applying the Olsen Test (Nathan and Gelderman, 2015). Potassium was measured using an atomic absorption spectrophotometer. Zinc and copper were extracted with diethylene triamine penta acetic acid and also measured with an atomic absorption spectrophotometer (Nathan and Gelderman, 2015). Recommended chemical soil test procedures for the North Central Region (Nathan and Gelderman, 2015) were used to analyze C, pH, OM and SO4-S.

 

Forage Production and Utilization

Forage production and utilization of the annual crop was estimated by clipping six 59-inch diameter hoops per experimental treatment. Clipping for peak biomass production occurred during the week prior to grazing and turnout dates ranged from late August to early October. Clipping to determine forage utilization occurred upon removal of cattle from the grazing treatments.

Livestock Performance

Beef cattle were stratified by a 2-day body weight and body condition score at the site in Fargo pre- and post-treatment, whereas cattle at the demonstration sites were scored for their body condition only. A visual scoring system developed by Wagner et al. (1988) was used to assess body condition.

Data Analysis

The demonstrations will be set-up utilizing a randomized split-plot design to evaluate the different stock densities at each location.  Data analysis will be conducted using SAS version 9.4.  Data will be analyzed to assess changes in soil physical properties, soil chemistry and soil biology, forage production, crop production and livestock production.

Economic Analysis

The economic analysis would evaluate the cost and/or revenue advantages of the grazing management practices being evaluated against a baseline system to determine if these strategies pay off based upon livestock and/or crop production advantages. The analysis will also evaluate the circumstances that make the ICLSs being demonstrated profitable or cost effective for producers. This analysis would be based upon historical and projected market prices and production costs for the systems.

Outreach Activities

NDSU Extension will partner with producers to establish several demonstration sites.  Producer involvement will provide a real world perspective of the effects grazing management practices have on ICLSs. The NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and the NDSU Main Station will also host  sites along with six livestock producers who practice ICLSs.  A series of café talks, workshops and tours will provide opportunities to disseminate results to producers, landowners, local organizations and other stakeholders during years one and two of the project. This outreach will provide stakeholders an opportunity to see the demonstrations in action and have discussions with our partner producers during the project. Other outreach efforts include, but are not limited to, journal articles, extension publications, bulletins, news articles, videos and social media. After project completion, two one-day workshops will be hosted around North Dakota by the project team and partners to comprehensively share what was learned during the on-farm demonstrations. This will allow an opportunity for all the producer partners to gather together and learn from one another as well. These workshops will be open to all local stakeholders as well as those throughout the Northern Great Plains.

Research results and discussion:

Spring conditions were dry during 2020 and 2021 (Table 1). In fact, Fargo and Lehr were the only locations that did not start with a major deficit of moisture. Total seasonal rainfall was below normal for most locations during 2020 and 2022. Although spring conditions were dry during 2021, seasonal totals were near- or above-normal for most locations except Fargo and McKenzie. Despite widespread drought conditions during the spring of 2021, most locations received rain during the fall. While the spring of 2022 was near- or above-normal, the rain shut-off by mid-summer for most locations.

Table 1. Average monthly precipitation levels and seasonal totals (inches) by month and year as compared to normal (30-year average) at each project location during 2020-2022.

 

 

 

Rainfall (inches) by Month

 

Location

Year

May

June

July

Aug

Sep

Oct

Seasonal Total

Fargo1

2020

1.5

2.6

5.3

4.8

0.9

0.9

16.0

2021

0.4

3.5

0.7

3

3.3

2.7

13.6

2022

3.4

2.7

3.8

2.7

0.5

0.3

13.4

Normal

2.8

3.9

2.8

2.6

2.6

2.2

16.9

Jamestown2

2020

2.2

0.4

3.5

2.4

0.2

0.4

9.1

2021

1.8

2.5

0.2

1.8

2.5

5.1

13.9

2022

4.0

2.6

1.3

1.1

0.7

0.1

9.8

Normal

2.7

3.5

3.3

2.1

2.3

1.7

15.6

Lehr1

2020

1.7

1.6

3.1

2.9

0.7

0.2

10.2

2021

3.4

1.5

1.6

6.8

3.5

4.5

21.3

2022

3.8

3.7

1.7

0.5

0.5

0.2

10.4

Normal

2.6

3

2.7

2

1.3

1.6

13.2

McClusky2

2020

1

2

2.4

3.8

0.2

0.4

9.8

2021

1.9

2.8

1.2

2.2

1.3

4.2

13.6

2022

1.8

2.1

2.2

1.5

0.9

0.9

9.4

Normal

2.4

3.2

2.6

2.1

1.6

1.4

13.3

McKenzie2

2020

0.7

0.9

3.5

0.7

0.5

0.5

6.8

2021

1.3

1.6

1.6

1.1

1.1

3.4

10.1

2022

2.0

1.2

3.8

1.2

1.0

0.5

9.7

Normal

2.4

3.2

2.9

2.3

1.6

1.3

13.7

Tappen1

2020

1.5

2.4

2.3

4

0.3

0.2

10.7

2021

2.2

5.1

0.6

3.2

2.5

4.1

17.7

2022

4.0

2.3

1.7

1.3

1.0

0.6

10.9

Normal

2.6

3.2

3.2

2.2

2

1.5

14.7

1 Data obtained from or near specific locations affiliated with the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network (2023).

2 Data obtained from or near specific locations affiliated with the National Weather Service (2023).

                   

It is important to acknowledge that precipitation, field conditions, and cropping history are variable across sites and differences may be reflected in results. For example, seeding depth of annual forages was not consistent across sites during 2020. The crop was seeded to a depth greater than ¾ inch at Fargo and Jamestown resulting in little to no germination of brassicas, which influenced forage production and quality. Fargo and Jamestown produced a limited amount of forage in 2020, averaging 5,200 and 7,700 lbs/acre, respectively. The McClusky site had calibration issues and, thus, forage production averaged 6,800 lbs/acre. The rest of the sites averaged 7,700 to 14,400 lbs/acre (Table 2). Strategies for successful field preparation and drill calibration were discussed with producers and site managers and the problem did not persist.

Table 2. Average forage production (lbs/ac), carrying capacity (AUMs/ac) and degree of use (%) by treatment and location during 2020 and 2021.

 

 

2020

2021

Location

Treatment

Forage Production (lbs/ac)

Standard Deviation

Carrying Capacity (AUMs/ac)

Degree of Use (%)

Standard Deviation

Forage Production (lbs/ac)

Standard Deviation

Carrying Capacity (AUMs/ac)

Degree of Use (%)

Standard Deviation

Fargo

No grazing

3,914

1,781

 

 

 

6,065

1,281

 

 

 

50%

5,916

647

1.7

53

11

7,599

1,390

1.9

57

4

75%

5,960

1,522

2.4

70

8

8,250

1,138

3.0

75

2

Jamestown

No grazing

8,049

1,531

 

 

 

3,590

346

 

 

 

50%

7,181

1,366

2

441

5

8,049

1,531

1.7

54

2

75%

8,049

1,531

2.7

511

0.6

4,019

712

2.1

69

3

Lehr

No grazing

14,437

5,686

 

 

 

4,903

2,266

 

 

 

50%

12,725

3,433

3.7

53

14

5,015

2,038

1.4

50

3

75%

11,017

2,710

4.5

61

6

4,381

2,364

1.8

491

13

McClusky

No grazing

6,375

1,402

 

 

 

4,005

1,905

 

 

 

50%

7,164

1,129

2.1

33

8

5,258

2,342

1.4

58

3

75%

6,8932

1,966

1.0

441

2

6,874

1,723

0.9

63

2

McKenzie

No grazing

8,079

918

 

 

 

4,361

783

 

 

 

50%

9,333

3,811

2.7

60

8

2,392

652

0.7

51

5

75%

7,714

2,374

3.2

71

1

3,177

1466

1.3

72

6

Tappen

No grazing

6,444

1,202

 

 

 

2,6863

721

 

 

 

50%

10,536

2009

3.0

431

4

4,2283

506

0.5

49

7

75%

8,782

2,204

3.6

721

6

3,4853

449

0.6

75

10

1Livestock pulled early due to inclement weather, limited feed or water.

2Forage production consisted of 65% weeds. Stocking rate was adjusted accordingly.

3Forage production consisted of 60% weeds. Stocking rate was adjusted accordingly.

Despite widespread drought in 2021, most locations received rain during the fall. The late-season moisture boosted growth and/or re-growth of forages in Fargo, Jamestown, Lehr, and Tappen. Even though fall moisture was helpful, the overwhelming lack of subsoil moisture resulted in limited forage production across all sites except Fargo. Average forage production ranged from 2,300 to 8,300 lbs/acre with Fargo having the highest production (Table 2).
Drought conditions during the fall of 2020 and an early September frost slowed down or halted plant growth. While the annual forage mix was designed to meet requirements of beef cattle and maintain or improve ecological benefits, less than ideal conditions made it difficult to meet nutrient requirements of cattle late in the season. Supplementation should be considered when grazing annual forages during the late fall or early winter months when forage supply or quality is compromised. Livestock response to forage quality was variable (Table 3).

Table 3. Type of cattle, average change in body condition score (BCS) and number (#) of grazing days by treatment and location during 2020 and 2021.

 

 

 

2020

2021

Location

Treatment

Type of Cattle

Change in BCS

# of Grazing Days

Type of Cattle

Change in BCS

# of Grazing Days

Fargo

50%

Pairs

0.5

20

Pairs

0

22

75%

0.5

27

-0.5

30

Jamestown

50%

Pairs and heifers

0

331

Pairs

0.5

46

75%

-0.5

331

0

61

Lehr

50%

Fall calving cows

0.5

64

Heifers

0

45

75%

0

62

 

0

541

McClusky

50%

Pairs

0.5

242

Pairs

0.5

20

75%

0

241

0

25

McKenzie

50%

Heifers

0

36

Heifers

0

13

75%

0

41

0

17

Tappen

50%

Pairs and heifers

NA

181

Pairs

0

93

75%

NA

181

0.5

163

1Livestock pulled from grazing trial early due to inclement weather, limited feed, or water.

2Forage production consisted of 65% weeds. Stocking rate adjusted accordingly.

3Forage production consisted of 60% weeds. Stocking rate adjusted accordingly.

Grazing turnout during 2021 ranged from late July to early October. Producers were encouraged to graze the annual forage cover crop earlier, so that forages would increase in grazing quality. However, persistent drought conditions caused concern for nitrate toxicity and prussic acid poisoning. Samples were collected and tested to ensure that forages were safe. Livestock response to forage quality continued to be variable (Table 3).
Soil physical characteristics are still being analyzed, but preliminary results suggest that grazing cattle on cropland in the late summer or fall does not cause soil particle separation, soil compaction, or impede water infiltration.
Soil chemical and biological characteristics are also still being analyzed, but preliminary results suggest that livestock integration did not lead to an accumulation of soil NO3-N or P, but K did increase over time (Table 4). Soil nutrient requirements for 180-bushel (bu) corn, in eastern North Dakota, on non-irrigated cropland is 100, 104, and 60 parts per million (ppm) for NO3-N, P, and K, respectively (Franzen, 2022). Livestock integration did not meet soil nutrient requirements for NO3-N or P, but did exceed requirements for K.

Table 4. Soil nitrogen (NO3-N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) levels (ppm) at 0-6” by treatment and location within a similar soil ecological type during 2020 and 2022.

 

 

 

 

Soil Nutrient Levels (ppm)

 

 

 

2020

2022

Location

Soil Ecological Type

Treatment

NO3-N

P

K

NO3-N

P

K

Fargo

Clayey Subsoil

Traditional

31

25

384

8.8

19

582

No grazing

4.0

6.7

377

4.5

5.7

450

50%

3.5

7.5

295

3.6

12

467

75%

3.4

9.8

328

3.2

11

481

Jamestown

Loam

Traditional

6

24

290

3.3

34

329

No grazing

2.3

17

224

4.7

19

345

50%

3.8

20.4

244

4.3

22

401

75%

2.6

20.6

263

3.9

25

377

Lehr

Loam

Traditional

6.9

4

203

3.5

3.7

176

No grazing

3.9

4.4

298

4.3

4.6

309

50%

10

8

248

4.8

6.3

376

75%

3.0

4.3

236

3.5

3.3

214

McClusky

Loam

Traditional

11

11

328

5.3

18

511

No grazing

12

12

593

5.8

12

490

50%

17

10

496

5

10

666

75%

17

8.7

360

3.5

12

481

McKenzie

Loam

Traditional

7.7

2.8

124

3.2

3.8

108

No grazing1

3.1

5.3

272

3.4

5.0

319

50%

11

5.6

220

2.3

3.4

236

75%

6.1

4.4

189

2.4

2.7

209

Tappen

Very droughty loam

Traditional

5.8

15

348

7.4

34

566

No grazing

7.9

16

295

6.9

14

475

50%2

13

17

242

9.8

76

598

75%2

11

3.4

228

6.8

5.2

457

1Cattle broke into control during final week of grazing in 2020.

2Grazing activity was limited due to issues with water toxicity in 2020 and forage production/quality in 2021.

Despite the low levels of soil NO3-N and P, corn biomass and yield responded positively to livestock integration (Table 5). Corn biomass on the no grazing treatment averaged 7,500 lbs/ac across locations. However, production increased to 8,900 and 9,700 lb/ac across locations for the 50% and 75% utilization treatments, respectively. Livestock integration also increased corn yield (Table 5). The no grazing treatment averaged 86 bu/ac across locations, but increased to 100 and 106 bu/ac for the 50 and 75% utilization treatments, respectively.

Table 5. Average corn biomass (lbs/ac) and corn yield (bu/ac) by treatment and location during 2022.

Location1

Treatment

Corn Biomass (lbs/ac)

Standard Deviation

Corn Yield (bu/ac)

Standard Deviation

Fargo

No grazing

6,790

2,299

91

25

50%

10,145

1,325

129

22

75%

11,045

1,709

131

25

Jamestown

No grazing

6,820

345

71

17

50%

6,402

1,309

63

23

75%

10,045

2,299

130

26

Lehr

No grazing

7,515

1,770

NA

NA

50%

11,829

4,578

75%

11,010

1,155

McClusky

No grazing

8,818

950

94

18

50%

8,192

1,893

111

21

75%

7,396

1,414

88

18

McKenzie

No grazing2

10,274

3,120

NA

NA

50%

10,660

1,685

75%

11,815

1,586

Tappen

No grazing

7,902

3,173

88

26

50%3

6,302

503

100

18

75%3

6,699

70

75

16

1Fargo, Jamestown, and McClusky were planted to a grain variety corn; Lehr and McKenzie were planted to a silage variety corn; and Tappen was planted to a dual-purpose corn.

2Cattle broke into control during final week of grazing in 2020.

3Grazing activity was limited due to issues with water toxicity in 2020 and forage production/quality in 2021.

While an economic analysis has not yet been performed, initial calculations indicate that incorporating livestock into cropping systems can provide a cost savings and has no negative affect on soil physical characteristics. With the exception of Tappen and McClusky, where challenges were evident because of inclement weather, limited feed or water quality, body condition of cattle was maintained. Implementing management strategies, such as altering grazing density or forage utilization, should reflect the goals and resources of an operation. Preliminary results suggest that integration of crops and livestock has the potential to influence soil health, crop production, livestock performance, and economics.

Participation Summary
6 Farmers participating in research

Education

Educational approach:

In 2020 we hosted a webinar series on grazing cover crops. Participated in nine cafe talks and panel discussion on livestock integration into cropping systems. Developed an in-service training, cover crop kits, cover crop cost calculator and Extension publication to utilized in Extension outreach. The project team filmed six video on grazing cover crops. In addition six news releases and seven media interview were completed.

Project Activities

Grazing Cover Crops Webinar Series
Cover Crop In-Service
Annual Cover Crop Options for Grazing and Haying in the Northern Plains
Crop and Soil Center Annual Forages Tour

Educational & Outreach Activities

700 Consultations
10 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
8 On-farm demonstrations
18 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Tours
28 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days
45 Other educational activities: podcast, in-service training, media interviews

Participation Summary:

2,039 Farmers participated
820 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Summary of Extension activities completed in 2020:

  • 9 café talks focused on livestock integration with 241 participants.
  • Grazing cover crop panel during DIRT workshop had 303 participants
  • Hosted Cover Crop In-Service for Extension, NRCS and SCD personnel that was attended by 45 people
  • Created a Cover Crop Cost Calculator for producers
  • Revised the Annual Cover Crop Options for Grazing in the Northern Plains publication, accessed 642 times online and 50 print copies were distributed.
  • Created kits for Extension agents, NRCS and SCD personnel to grow cover crops to use in their programing efforts, distributed kits to 15 participants.
  • Hosted a Grazing Cover Crop Webinar Series that reached 392 participants that increased participants knowledge of grazing cover crops between 51 and 97 percent. The recordings received 1,030 views.
  • Wrote 6 articles and news releases about grazing cover crops that reached an estimated 160,000 individuals.
  • Conducted 7 media interviews about grazing cover crops that reached an estimated 302,000 individuals.
  • Filmed 6 videos on grazing cover crops that had 1,717 views.
  • The NDSU Stutsman County Extension agent presented to 32 individuals at 2 meetings on cover crop selections. Producers that attended the meeting increased their ability to select cover crops was rated 53% before and 80% after the workshop.

Summary of Extension activities completed in 2021:

  • Co-hosted Soil Talk Tuesday on Making Soil Health Practices Fit had 44 participants.
  • Spoke during Soil Health Communications Workshop, Making the Connection On-Farm this virtual session had 74 participants.
  • Hosted Preparing Your Ranch for Drought: Supplemental Feed & Forage Options Webinar, which included a discussion of using annual forage to increase management flexibility and drought resilience, had 49 participants.
  • Demonstration was a stop on the NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center Field Day, a project update was given to 100 participants.
  • Discussed Integrated Crop Livestock Systems at Soil and Crop Center with 219 participants.
  • Created handout outlining fencing materials and options for grazing cover crops.
  • Co-hosted Integrated Crop Livestock Grazing Tour at the Central Grasslands Research Extension Center, which had 12 participants.
  • Two county based soil health meetings that included discussions of livestock integration, which reached 60 individuals
  • Annual Cover Crop Options for Grazing in the Northern Plains publication, accessed 1,157 times online and 66 print copies were distributed.
  • Wrote 3 articles and news releases about grazing cover crops that reached an estimated 15,000 individuals.
  • Conducted 8 media interviews about grazing cover crops that reached an estimated 100,00 individuals.
  • Over 278 direct contacts regarding cover crops and integrated crop livestock systems.

Summary of Extension activities completed in 2022:

  • 2 café talks focused on livestock integration with 24 participants.
  • Specialists gave 7 invited presentations at regional and national events on integrated crop livestock systems, reaching over 300 individuals.
  • Hosted in-service training for Extension, NRCS and SCD personnel that covered annual forage options for livestock and nitrate toxicity that was attended by 53 individuals.
  • Demonstration was a stop on the NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center Field Day, a project update was given to 100 participants.
  • 35 county based soil health meetings that included discussions of livestock integration, which reached 1,093 individuals
  • Annual Cover Crop Options for Grazing in the Northern Plains publication, accessed 6,060 times online and 160 print copies were distributed.
  • Wrote 9 articles and news releases about grazing cover crops that reached an estimated 60,000 individuals.
  • Conducted 8 media interviews about grazing cover crops that reached an estimated 300,00 individuals.
  • Over 200 direct contacts regarding cover crops and integrated crop livestock systems.

The project team has been sharing initial project results at meeting and workshops this winter. The project results will be shared at tours and meetings in 2023.

Learning Outcomes

81 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
282 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes as a result of their participation
Key areas taught:
  • Calculating forage production and stock rates for grazing cover crops.
  • Selecting cover crop species for grazing.
  • Soil health and economic benefits of grazing cover crops.
  • Potential toxicity issues when grazing cover crops.
  • Grazing management considerations for integrated crop livestock systems.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.