Balancing harvest efficiency and economics of grazing fall forage cover crops.

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $40,000.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2023
Grant Recipient: Nebraska Extension
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Erin Laborie
Nebraska Extension

Information Products


  • Agronomic: oats, rapeseed, turnips
  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: grazing management
  • Crop Production: cover crops
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal abstract:

    Forage cover crop utilization has gained popularity across the Midwest because of the conservation and soil health benefits. Additionally, these forages are a high quality feed resource that enables beef producers to increase condition of animals before winter or opportunity for high rates of gain. Improving grazing efficiency and decreasing waste can significantly impact the economic viability of a forage cover crop grazing scenario. However, producers struggle to find an effective grazing strategy optimizing the economic return of fall-grazed forage cover crops. This project will evaluate the effects of stocking density on grazing efficiency and body condition score (BCS) of cattle fall-grazing cover crops in a continuous grazing system and a strip-grazing system. Cattle in the continuous system will have access to graze the entire field. Cattle in the strip-graze system will be moved to a fresh paddock every 3 to 4 days. The project will be replicated across 5 different cooperator sites in Nebraska with forage biomass and quality measured before and after grazing.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Demonstrate establishment practices in a cropping system for fall grazing forage cover crops and techniques to increase harvest efficiency. 
    2. Collect and evaluate forage and animal performance data on replicated, partnering producer sites to measure the impact of stocking density on fall grazed forage cover crops. 
    3. Educate producers, industry, and peers about optimal establishment and utilization of forage cover crops with field days, cooperating producer demonstration sites, social and traditional media outreach, professional publications and presentations.
    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.