Forages: Soil Testing, Fertilization, and Cost of Production Workshops

Mark Carlton, Extension Field Agronomist and Clete Swackhamer, County Extension Education Director Appanoose and Davis Counties, Southeast

Problem Statement:

Cow/calf production is an important industry in southeast Iowa. The topography and soils lend many farms or portions of farms to cattle production rather than row-crop production.  However, an almost three-fold increase in the price of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium has raised the cost of production in hay and pastures to the point that some producers are tempted to liquidate their cow herds.  Others are considering applying no fertilizer to pasture and hay ground.

Programmatic Response:

Clete Swackhamer, County Extension Education Director, and I partnered to conduct two forage nutrient workshops in Appanoose and Davis counties.  Fifty-one cattle producers attended the two workshops.  Topics included in the workshops were soil testing, calculating nutrient needs, interseeding legumes into grass pastures, CRP, and hay ground, rotational grazing, and utilizing alternative forages.  The producers were given average retail fertilizer prices and asked to calculate the cost of production of forage crops. 


Many producers were surprised at the amount of phosphorus and potassium that were removed in a ton of hay.  One grower remarked that he had just sold hay and after calculating the cost of nutrients in ton of hay, he had sold it for about $20 less a bale than it cost him to produce it.   Seventy three percent of the producers said they would implement a soil testing program before applying fertilizer. 


100 Corn and Soybean Production and Protection

Page last updated: April 17, 2008
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