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

2014 Annual Report for FNC14-956

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

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


Year 1 Initial Report

Before the cover crops were planted, we worked with the extension educator to take core samples of first cutting hay that each farmer would normally use to feed their cattle. The samples were analyzed for basic nutritional values to be compared to the cover crops planted during the trial. Soil samples of the fields were also taken (where needed — some farmers had already taken analysis through the local coop) to determine soil health and required nutrients prior to planting the cover crops.

The actual trial started at the end of harvest for each of the farmers. Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side and some of the cover crops were not planted at the correct time, and others were not planted at all. We made some adjustments according to the late planting in hopes to show some results for next year. The triticale was mixed with the winter wheat only on one farm, and pure stands were made on three of the fields. We used flags to determine the end of one crop and the beginning of the other as we assume the plants will look very similar as it grows. A forage extension specialist along with our local ANR extension educator worked with each farmer to determine application rates that would serve us well for comparing yields. The cover crops were ordered through the local coop and they helped with preparing the drills and understanding the different varieties of cover crops available for us to use.

The turnips were not planted because we could not get the corn out of the field early enough to show growth from the turnips at a level that we felt comfortable to graze. We have discussed planting turnips in the spring, but are concerned that may delay planting for the grain crop and the soil temperatures may be too cold for the seed to germinate.  It was also suggested by the coop to compare forage turnips to purple top turnips to see if palatability was similar. Forage turnips are more expensive, so we wanted to see if they were economical to a livestock owner. We do plan to plant the turnips in the fall of 2015 as part of this research trial.

The triticale and winter wheat were planted late, so there could be some reduced stands in the fields. The application rates varied slightly because the farmers had each planted winter wheat previously at a specific rate. They were not comfortable changing the rate too much, and we wanted to be able to compare yields from this past year to the first year of the research trial. We chose to keep the triticale application rate similar to the winter wheat application rate so the yield could be more accurately compared.

The Harrison County Cattle Association is hosting the educational field day for this research trial and plans to hold the field day in April while cover crops will still be in the ground for attendees to see and feel. We hope to do some silage collection demonstrations and discuss dried forage feeding values as compared to the silage. After the two years, we will have 2 publications produced, one on the economics and one on the nutrition value of the cover crops used in this trial.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  • 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.


  • Samples were taken of the soil from the fields where we intend to plant the cover crops and forage samples were taken from the first cutting grass grass/legume and winter wheat hays collected and baled in the spring of 2014. We plan to collect from the second cutting hay products so a nutritive comparison can be made.
  • Three out of the five fields were planted for the first year of on-farm research.
  • We have planted all field that will be harvested for a forage product. 
  • The planting costs are currently being figured so we can compare to the yield in the spring. 
  • We have also ordered cover crop field guides and plan to order forage field guides to give to each producer that attends the field day this spring.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

  • No impacts have been measured as of yet. We will have to wait until a forage crop has been harvested to compare to the collected forages from the spring of 2014.
  • An evaluation will be handed out at the field day to determine the attendees’ understanding of cover crops and what they learned through our program in April 2015


Dr. Keith Johnson
Professor of Agronomy/ Grazing specialist
Purdue University
915 W. State Street
West Lafayette, IN 47907
Office Phone: 7654944800
Kevin Chastain
NRCS District Director
Natural Resources Conservation Services
1855 Gardner Ln NW
Corydon, IN 47112
Office Phone: 8127388121
Dr. Ron Lemenager
Purdue University
915 W. State Street
West Lafayette, IN 47907
Office Phone: 7654944817
Tony Day
D Livestock Co.
6585 Pumping Station Rd.
Elizabeth, IN 47117
Office Phone: 8127372772
Kevin Sieg
Sieg Farm
4810 Clover Valley Rd NW
Ramsey, IN 47166
Office Phone: 8127384129
Westin Rink
Account Manager
Jackson-Jennings Co-Op
2655 Hwy 135 SW
Corydon, IN 47112
Office Phone: 8127381414
Justin Fleace
Fleace Farm
9870 N Tobacco Landing Rd SE
Laconia, IN 47135
Office Phone: 8127362221
Miranda Ulery
ANR Extension Educator
Purdue Cooperative Extension Services
247 Atwood St
Corydon, IN 47112
Office Phone: 8127384236
Tom Ferree

Owner- Barks & Ferree Farms
Barks & Ferree Farms
1800 Heth Washington Rd SW
Central, IN 47110
United States
Office Phone: 1-812-267-1793
Andrew Edge
Farm Manager
Barks & Ferree Farms
516 Heth Washington Rd SW
Corydon, Indiana 47112
United States
Office Phone: 812-267-5485