Interseeding cover crops and grazing cattle to improve soil health, water infliltration, and profitability within an Organic transition.

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $29,968.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Getting Farms LTD
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Andrew Getting
Getting Farms LTD


  • Agronomic: annual ryegrass, clovers, medics/alfalfa
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing - rotational
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    Soil health is a concern for farmers, however in Northwest Iowa cover crops are not widely used and livestock integration into a cover crop system is very rare. Organic fertilizer costs are currently over 50% of total expenses. Will livestock integration to graze cover crops improve soil health and/or reduce fertilizer input costs?

    Equally dividing 113 acres into 2 areas, one with cover crop only and one with cover crop and rotational grazing, will allow us to see any differences between management with or without livestock.

    Our research will test soil heath before and after the cover crop and grazing rotation using the Haney and PLFA soil health tests.  The Osceola County NRCS will perform water infiltration tests before and after the cover crop and livestock rotation.

    Our research will also take into account any increase/decrease in corn yield in 2024 from livestock integration to non livestock integration.


    Project objectives from proposal:

    March 2023, a Haney, PFLA soil health test will be completed in multiple areas of the 113 acre field to be planted.  A NRCS water infiltration test will also be completed by a NRCS field agent.

    April 2023, the 113 acre parcel will be planted to oats interseeded with a cover crop blend of alfalfa, red and berseem clovers, and ryegrass. 

    Late July, after oat harvest, the 113 acres will be divided in half to two 56.5 acre parcels.  One 56.5 parcel will be fenced with 4 wire high tensile fencing.  A water system will be installed to allow cattle to have access to water with each move they made through the parcel.  On or about August 1, about 60 head of cattle will be introduced to the parcel and rotationally grazed in smaller 3 acre paddocks.  All feeder cattle will be weighed before releasing them into the paddock.  Temporary paddocks will be made with plastic posts and electrified polywire.  The cattle will graze the paddock of cover crop mix from it's starting height of over 12" to a height no less than 4".  Then the cattle will move to the next paddock. The cattle will rotationally graze the 56.5 acres until at least November.  When the cattle are removed the feeder cattle will be weighed again to establish a rate of gain for these cattle.

    March 2024, a second Haney, PFLA soil health test will be completed in multiple areas of the 113 acre field.  A NRCS water infiltration test will also be completed by a NRCS field agent.  We will compare the data from the 2 56.5 acre pieces.

    May 2024, corn will be planted to the 113 acres.  We are hopeful that the grazed cover crop area will require less manure.




    Measure the effect of rotational cattle grazing on the soil health of an organic transitional farm.

    Successfully integrate livestock into a cover crop system which will provide the cattle with an excellent forage feed source that will bring a measurable weight gain for the feeder cattle.

    Share preliminary findings through a Practical Farmers of Iowa Field day and Pasture Walk in September

    Minimize the use of additional inputs within an Organic transition plan

    Share final findings through a Practical Farmers of Iowa NW Iowa Grazers field day during the Spring of 2024

    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.