Increasing Highly Digestible Forage Density per Acre Utilizing No-till, Cover Crops, and Manure Application

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2024: $46,492.00
Projected End Date: 09/14/2026
Grant Recipient: Northeast Iowa Dairy & Agriculture Foundation
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Dave Lawstuen
Northeast Iowa Community College


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

With a goal to use less land and
resources, we will research how to create more feed per acre so
fewer acres are needed to grow feed for our cows. No-till and
cover crop farming practices will use less energy and fossil
fuels while also reducing the amount of soil erosion on the
fields. We are looking for forages that are highly digestible and
allow the cows to more readily utilize nutrients. As a
demonstration site in Calmar, Iowa, we will plant a three-crop
rotation of triticale, cocktail forage mix, and corn silage.
Three local farmers will replicate this crop rotation on their
own acres of cropland. These farmers will operate medium-sized
dairy cattle operations and own cropland in northeast


After each harvest, a sample will
be taken for a forage analysis. We will evaluate the differences
between the three forages in the rotation to determine which one
produces the best yield per acre, nutrient composition, and
digestibility rate. For education and outreach purposes, we will
be hosting a field day and writing a summary report of our
findings for local farmers and beyond to learn from our research
and adopt these practices themselves.

Project objectives from proposal:

  • Increase yield per acre of
    nutrient-dense, highly digestible forage 
  • Increase soil organic
  • Increase water quality in
    surrounding streams and ponds
  • Decrease fossil fuel usage by
    utilizing no-till farming practice 
  • Reduce the amount of commercial
    fertilizer through the use of manure 
  • Serve as a demonstration site
    for local farmers to learn how to implement no-till and cover
    crop practices effectively 
  • Educate local farmers on the
    benefits of cover crops 
  • Show cattle producers the
    benefits of different forages 
  • Demonstrate a three-crop
    rotation that can be replicated by local farmers 
  • Evaluate the differences in
    nutritional value and digestibility in 3 different
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.