Grazing and Forage Education

Joe Sellers, Livestock Specialist, Southwest Area


Changing land and feed prices, along with possible land use changes, increase the demand for pasture and forage resources as net pasture acres continue to decrease in Iowa.  The data on pasture rent, contract grazing rates, and alternative cow production systems is limited, resulting in a need for more current information on these topics.


Sellers worked with IFGC, NRCS, and Iowa Beef Center staff to develop and deliver a grazing survey of Iowa producers, with 448 usable responses.  Results were summarized by Iowa Beef Center staff and fact sheets under development will provide more detailed information on pasture rental rates, pasture management practices, and lease agreements.  This information will be compared to other surveys including the Iowa Cash Rent survey.

Sellers partnered with Practical Farmers of Iowa on a Leopold Center funded project looking at the current practices, fees, and services of custom grazing operations in Iowa.  In-depth interviews of producers currently involved in custom grazing agreements will be used to summarize current practices and develop four to five scenarios that typify custom cattle care and contract grazing in Iowa. In addition, educational programming for producers, staff, and veterinarians will be delivered in May 2007.

Use of co-products continues to gain interest as a method to reduce beef g=herd costs. Two on-farm demonstrations on area producer farms were conducted by Sellers and Iowa Beef Center staff to demonstrate the low cost delivery of distillers grains in cow-calf grazing systems.  A grant from the Leopold Center helped fund this, as part of a three year demonstration project.  Future efforts will include a grazing trial at the ISU McNay farm in 2007 to further evaluate stocking rate adjustments with supplementation.

Currently Sellers is coordinating an effort of the Iowa Beef Center evaluating alternative beef cow production systems.  The project will look at management scenarios including highly intensive grazing, heavy stocking rates followed  by drylot with low cost rations, use of annual crops, and supplementation on pasture.  Economic models will be used to demonstrate pros and cons of these systems under various Iowa soil resources. Fact sheets, decision aids, and educational programming are expected outputs.


Working with various partners including the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa Forage and Grasslands Council, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Iowa Beef Center, Practical Farmers of Iowa, and the Rathbun Land and Water Alliance, numerous projects are underway to provide beef producers more data to work with as they adapt to changing economics. Meetings planned for the spring and summer of 2007 will be evaluated to determine their effectiveness and identify needs.

April 2007
POW 140 Iowa Beef Center

Page last updated: May 11, 2007
Page maintained by Linda Schultz,