While cover crops are good, they require an increase in number of times machines must enter the field (an extra planting each fall) and they often require chemical termination in the spring.
Pasture-cropping is a method that leaves the cover crops in place year-round, but intentionally over-grazes to stunt the growth instead of terminating it. On our farm, we have an opportunity to test this method against historic crop performance on a 4 acre field that had been in consistent agronomic use for over 2 decades up until it was devoted to pasture just 5 years ago. Since then, it’s established a dense forage mix of legumes and grasses. But we retain historic yield results for this field to compare.
We will intensely graze this field with a herd of 24 cattle at two intervals, each time forcing them to crop the plants lower to the ground than is desirable for replenishing pasture. First, immediately before planting. Then, again immediately before emergence.
If successful, this method will allow the corn to compete against the stunted forage mix until it canopies. After harvest, it will be immediately productive as forage. Yield loss is expected, but could be offset by other gains.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Discover if intense grazing is a viable method to stunt (in lieu of terminating) pasture before planting and germination.
- Measure the negative effects that the competition creates on grain
- Determine if the benefits and savings can reasonably offset those yield