Sixty area beef producers learned how they could connect to graze their cattle with crop producers in Minnesota who have extra cover crops, crop residue or pasture to rent at one of five presentations at the annual University of Minnesota Extension Beef Cow/Calf Day on Jan. 23, at the Kanabec County Jail meeting room. Beef producers can now connect through a new Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) internet program called the Cropland Grazing Exchange.

Kelly Anderson, MDA beef specialist said that the Cropland Grazing Exchange was developed recently to connect livestock producers with crop producers who are willing to have livestock on their land for the purpose of increasing biodiversity. She added that the benefits of grazing livestock on cropland to the crop producer include reduced tillage, soil erosion, increased cropland fertility from manure and increasing diversity on the landscape. It is also a way for crop producers to graze off corn or wheat crop residue, pasture that needs grazing or land coming out of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).

Benefits to the livestock producer include a source of fall or winter feed, reduced pressure on pastures, lengthening the grazing season and lessening the time needed to feed hay to cattle.

“The Cropland Grazing Exchange is currently in a demonstration mode,” said Anderson. “However, anyone can go online and check it out. It will be functional on March 1.” The website is at www.mda.state.mn.us/cge

She said that the crop producer lists the amount and type of cropland that they have available to rent for grazing. The livestock producer lists the number of livestock that they want to graze. Their locations in Minnesota will appear as a point on a map of the state. Only a phone number or email address need to be listed. It is up to the producers to contact with each other.

“Soil health has become a buzz word lately,” said Anderson. The Natural Resource Conservation Service has held several workshops in this area to show how cover crops can be planted with row crops in order to keep living roots in the soil longer to reduce erosion, increase water holding capacity, soil fertility from a green manure crop and soil structure. Cover crops can then be tilled-in as green manure or winter grazed off by livestock.

She encouraged crop and livestock producers and anyone interested to attend the Midwest Soil Health Summit Feb. 15, and 16, in Fergus Falls.

Another cow/calf day speaker who spoke on growing cover crops was Scott Wells, University of Minnesota Extension Agronomist in Forage Crops. He shared research that he is doing with establishing cover crops into standing row crops to capture nutrients from the soil after row crops mature.

Eric Mousel, University of Minnesota Extension Cow/Calf educator based at the U of M Grand Rapids Research and Outreach Center shared research on grazing cover crops by beef cattle which is becoming a more common practice. His presentation concluded that research has shown that using livestock in the crop, livestock and manure cycle is beneficial to soil microorganisms and crops. He said that his research cattle that were grazed on cover crops needed to be supplemented with hay or grain in order to provide the cattle with adequate dry matter to maintain daily gain.

Mousel hosts the Minnesota Grazing School in Grand Rapids in September. For details email him at emmousel@umn.edu

Alfredo DiCostanzo, U of M Extension Animal Scientist in Beef Cattle Nutrition discussed minimizing hay storage and feeding loss research. His conclusions showed that with hay cost being 50-75 percent of the annual cost of a beef cow that it is critical to control hay storage and feeding waste.

Ten cow/calf day sponsors were present and told about their products. Representatives of the two local beef producer groups told about their organizations. The Snake River Valley Cattlemen’s Association (SRVCA) based in Kanabec and Mille Lacs counties meets in the Mora area. The Tri-County Cattlemen’s Association meets in Hinckley. A joint membership meeting is planned at Cassidy’s in Hinckley on March 16, at 6 p.m. Both groups invite anyone interested to join.

Anyone interested in the SRVCA should contact Eli Berry at 612-390-2249 or email him at eberryranch@gmail.com

The Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Tour will be on July 11, near Starbuck.

Terry Salmela is a contributing writer for the Kanabec County Times and retired University of Minnesota Extension Educator.