Evaluating the forage potential and financial viability of grazing diverse annual forage crops in a tradition corn/soybean rotation

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $9,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Knutson Shorthorns
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Zachary Knutson
Knutson Shorthorns


  • Animals: bovine, sheep


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, feed management, free-range, grazing management, grazing - multispecies, grazing - rotational, stocking rate
  • Crop Production: cover crops, cropping systems, crop rotation
  • Production Systems: holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal summary:

    In our area, most fields are exclusively corn/soybean rotations with very few hay fields. We want to explore the potential of adding a diverse annual forage crop mix as a third crop rotation. An annual forage crop would be more fluid in the rotation than a 3-5 year alfalfa field, and would provide new grazing opportunities in a traditional corn/soybean rotation.

    We will be rotationally grazing cattle and sheep across a mixture of biennial small grain forages and summer annual cocktail mixes. This could improve farm profitability by allowing expansion, or by allowing existing pastures to stockpile for winter grazing--thus reducing hay inputs. Also, by grazing the forages, equipment is not needed for making hay. Cattle are also perfectly content grazing at times when machinery cannot make hay--reducing the stress of timing the harvest and improving quality of life.

    While many producers want to incorporate grazing cover crops into their operations, most are deterred by the task of hauling water and attempting to keep it "open" through winter. By grazing summer annuals and stockpiling existing pastures, winter grazing can be done near heated fountains that are already established--thus improving farmer quality of life and profitability simultaneously. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Explore forage potential of diverse annual forages planted throughout the growing season
    2. Estimate the economic feasibility of adding diverse summer forages to a corn/soybean rotation in order to expand grazing opportunities and reduce the need for harvested forages
    3. Share findings with other graziers through the Land Stewardship Program, social media websites, and via regenerative grazing group discussion
    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.