Utilizing cover crops to increase productivity, health - vigor on tame grass pasture

2013 Annual Report for FNC13-908

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $6,904.86
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Donnie Feiring
Feiring's Cattle Co.

Utilizing cover crops to increase productivity, health - vigor on tame grass pasture


For our project we seeded 20 acres of a multi species cover crop into a declining brome grass stand. During the winter of 2012-2013, the area was grazed by 52 head of bred heifers. A portion of the area was bale grazed. On June 13th, Mike Gerbig, Area Rangeland Management Specialist with NRCS, conducted soil biology and infiltration tests. He conducted one of the tests within the 20 acre area. Three more tests were conducted in the brome grass area and an additional test was performed on the same soil type across the fence on native sod. The 20 acres was sprayed on June 24th with 30 oz. of GlyStar Plus. The area was then seeded to a multi species cover crop on June 26th. The mix consisted of Nitro radish, Hunter hybrid turnip, cowpeas, Non GMO soybeans, sorghum/sudan, Pearl millet. It as inoculated with Micro Noc inoculant. The cover crop was seeded into adequate moisture, but then we didn’t receive any moisture until July 9th. The areas that were bale grazed were able to hold enough moisture for the cover crop to thrive. The rest of the field, which was a majority of the 20 acres didn’t grow too well. The sorghum/sudan grew to about knee high. The turnips and radishes got about an inch out of the ground and then it got too hot for them. We allowed the cover crop to grow until October 10th. We installed a single wire electric fence around the 20 acres. We allowed 14 head of coming 2 year old bulls to graze the area from October 10th until November 16th without any supplementation.  

Objectives/Performance Targets

Improve Soil Health
At this point in time, it is hard to tell all of the benefits gained. Here is what we know right now – there is a hard pan at 7” due to the area being farmed. This area was conventionally farmed up until 1983. It was then seeded back to a brome/alfalfa mix. It has been hayed on good years, but mostly grazed by a remuda of bucking horses. It was overgrazed for many years and the health of the plants has gone backwards. Most of the brome grass never made seed heads. The plants are spaced too far apart. For as many years as it has been in grass, the organic matter is not as good as it should be. At this point in time, it is hard for us to say exactly what has changed. We do know that the brome is starved for moisture and nutrients. The roots are not able to break through the compaction layer and therefore cannot access any nutrients from below seven inches. The turnips and radishes did an excellent job of breaking through the compaction layer.


Right now it is really hard to gage the milestones or accomplishments we have reached in 2013. We won’t really know until the 2014 growing season. We are not sure if we will have an increase in grass production on the 20 acres or if it will still be a thin stand of brome. We chose not to mob graze the 20 acres due to the lack of production on most of the acreage. We plan to bale graze on as many of the 20 acres that we will be seeding in 2014.


Mike Gerbig

Area Rangeland Management Specialist
135 Sims Street, Suite 210
Dickinson, ND 58601
Office Phone: 7012255113
Ashley Ueckert

Extension Agent
NDSU Extension Service
PO Box 68
Beach, ND 58621
Office Phone: 7018724332
Donnie Feiring

Feiring's Cattle Co.
PO Box 725
Beach, ND 58621
Office Phone: 7018725888