University of Illinois researching the use of cover crop forages for dairy cows

Dairy researchers are exploring how cover crops could help with feed costs and soil health.

Dr. Phil Cardoso with the University of Illinois tells Brownfield 45-50% of the cost of production on dairy farms comes from feed, but utilizing cover crops like rye grass or oats on fields used for corn silage could increase profitability.  

“We can then harvest them as forage for cows, and I think that’s going to make the diet cheaper. Plus we are still getting the incentive of putting them in the soil to preserve some of that soil quality.”

He says they are currently doing research at the U of I to help farmers understand how to best incorporate different growth stages of cover crop forages into the diet for dry or lactating cows.  

“It’s about giving alternatives for farmers. If they don’t have wheat straw this is another option for a diet with lower energy. Then for the fresh cows, we can use a little bit more of that boot-stage crop to still maintain the rumen health and milk production for the cow.”

Brownfield interviewed Cardoso during the 2023 Illinois Dairy Tech Tour at Wilra Farms in Nashville, Illinois.

Audio: Interview with Dr. Phil Cardoso

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