The Economic Value of Grazing and Harvesting Cover Crops for Livestock Forage in Between Grain Crops

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $19,826.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Jennifer Lattire
Lattire Farms

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: rye, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Vegetables: turnips
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing management, winter forage
  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: display, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    As a result of increased feed costs, many acres have reverted into grain crops rather than hay production or pasture. Increased grain crops means more ground that may be left empty during the fall and winter seasons. Producers in Harrison County have done a great job in using cover crops to help improve the integrity of the soil, reduce compaction, and prepare the land for a better crop the following year. However, the cover crops could also be used as a harvested forage or added grazing pasture during the winter and early spring.

    Part of the purpose in developing this project is to look at ways to become more efficient with the land available. Integrated crop-livestock systems come second nature to many producers in Harrison County. This system has been in existence for many years, with much success for land use and management of livestock and waste products. The producer has the ability to use waste from the animals to fertilize the land where grain crops are grown and then in turn feed back to the livestock.  However, the loss of some farm land and the time and efforts of the producers are still a concern for this generation as well as the next.

    This project aims to look at the economic and nutritional value of using cover crops as part of an integrated crop-livestock system. We plan to use triticale compared to winter wheat for grazing as well as a forage crop in the form of silage and dried hay. We will also look at grazing turnips along with the winter wheat or triticale and its effect on extending grazing days in the winter.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • We will plant triticale, winter wheat and turnips after grain crops (corn the first year and soybeans the second year).
    • The cover crops will be grazed in two locations.
    • In other locations, we will compare the yield, nutritional value, cost to produce, and palatabiliy of triticale and winter wheat as collected forage products.  The products will either be dried hay or silage.
    • The results will be compared for each field over two years and educational material on economics and nutrition will be produced to provide other producers information about our findings. 
    • We will also hold a field day at the various fields to discuss the project and get local producers to start thinking about ways to increase their grazing days or forage supply.

    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.