AMES, Iowa — Is winter grazing really an option for beef producers in Iowa? Based on research at the Iowa State University Beef Teaching Farm, it definitely is an option. And it’s proven to be an even more cost-effective winter feeding strategy than providing the traditional stored hay.
A field day to demonstrate two winter grazing options will be held Wednesday, Jan. 5, at the Iowa State Beef Teaching Farm at 3725 520th Ave, Ames. The program includes specialists from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and will begin in the teaching farm pavilion at 1 p.m. The day will conclude with a walking tour of the grazing systems.
One research study to be featured is winter grazing of a cover crop mix consisting of radishes, turnips and oats, that evaluated fall-calving cow and calf performance compared to performance of fall pairs in a drylot setting.
Preliminary results have shown no difference between cow growth or reproductive performance, while cover crop grazing has benefited calf performance. During the winter of 2019, grazing cover crops for only 34 days reduced the stored feed costs by $96 per cow. The field day will feature results of the three-year project funded by the Iowa State Beef Checkoff Program.
The second research study features swath grazing of warm season annuals. Sorghum x sudangrass was seeded in early June, harvested once in late July as hay, and then allowed to grow into the fall. The regrowth was mowed and raked into sizable swaths prior to the first substantial snowfall.
Spring calving cows were turned into the swath fields after grazing cornstalk fields as their winter feed, and maintained on the swaths until calving in March. This year will be the third year of this feeding strategy for the Iowa State farm and attendees will be able to see this project in action.
The field day also will feature information to help producers address fencing and water limitations, and includes an optional farm tour to see some of the research and grazing systems in action. Speakers for the program include ISU Extension and Outreach beef specialists Denise Schwab, Garland Dahlke, Beth Reynolds and Erika Lundy-Woolfolk, and Iowa State Beef Teaching Farm manager David Bruene.
The Jan. 5 program is free to all beef producers thanks to grants from the Iowa Forage and Grasslands Council and the North Central Extension Risk Management Education Center. For more information, contact Denise Schwab at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Iowa State University Extension and Outreach