UNL research project looks at integrating cattle with crop production

Cattle grazing cereal rye cover crop near Tecumseh, Nebraska (photo courtesy UNL CropWatch)

The continued conversion of pastureland into cropland across the Great Plains and Midwest has caused many small cow-calf operations to go by the wayside. And it has University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers asking this question–how can you create a cow-calf production system without any perennial grass?

UNL animal scientist Jim MacDonald leads a research team that will try to answer that question.  They will investigate how to integrate cattle into a farming operation without disturbing crop production.

“We’re integrating some components that we’ve got some experience working with,” MacDonald says. “Grazing corn residue, which has been done for a long, long time—and more recently, we’ve gotten experience with grazing cover crops.”

MacDonald says summer confinement of cows will also be part of their research.

“By itself, the economics (of confinement) don’t look very good, depending on corn price,” he says. “But if you integrate that with grazing corn residue and grazing cover crops, then the economics start to work.”

MacDonald hopes the results of their research might provide more opportunities for new or young farmers to get started in the cow-calf business in areas where pasture is scarce.

Link to UNL news release

AUDIO: Jim McDonald

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