Meetings Will Look at Iowa Cow Systems Project, Offer Tours

Meetings at five locations will look at economic opportunities of three Iowa cow systems

January 25, 2019, 9:08 am | Denise Schwab, Sherry Hoyer

AMES, Iowa — Iowa is home to 4.2 percent of the United States’ beef cattle inventory, the seventh-largest number of any state in the country. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach beef specialist Denise Schwab said a project conducted through the Iowa Beef Center worked with 28 producers to characterize three production management systems.

beef cattle in pasture by pwkirk/“The traditional or conventional system consists of pasture grazing during the growing season and winter feeding of harvested or purchased feed in either a lot or open area,” Schwab said. “The second is an extensive grazing system, which aims to have cows grazing most of the year with little supplemental feeds. The third system is a limited grazing system where most of the feed is harvested and cows are confined in a building or drylot for much of the time.”

Findings from this project form the basis of a new Iowa cow systems manual, “Sustainably Growing Iowa’s Beef Herds: Evaluating Systems That Provide Economic Opportunities While Protecting Soil and Water Resources." The manual includes data collected on production cost records, feed usage and management, forage quality, soil samples and soil loss based on land use and conservation practices. Case studies were developed to demonstrate successful practices in each production system, and example budgets and decision tools helped evaluate which system best fit their individual resources.

“Cow-calf enterprises can have a positive impact on the environment when well-managed,” Schwab said. “For example, incorporating rotational or permanent pastures into crop rotations can increase organic matter and reduce soil erosion.”

This message and the economic opportunities of each cow system will be delivered by Schwab and fellow extension beef specialists at meetings to be held in late February. In addition to the results of the project, three locations will offer tours of cooperator operations. Attendance is free, thanks to sponsorship of Iowa Farm Bureau, Farm Credit Services of America and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.

Meeting dates, times and locations

  • Feb. 20, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Guthrie Activity Center, 209 State St., Guthrie Center. Tour Curtis, Molly and Mike Clark’s farm, Linden.
  • Feb. 21, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Carpenter’s Hall, 1215 Court Ave., Chariton. Tour Duane and Jodi Steenhoek’s farm.
  • Feb. 26, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Jones County Extension & Expo Hall, 800 N. Maple St., Monticello. Tour Lubben’s White Oak Farms, Monticello.
  • Feb. 27, 1-3 p.m. – Hancock County Extension, 327 W 8th St., Garner. No tour.
  • Feb. 28, 6-9 p.m. – Meyers Seed, 5204 Highway 63, Montezuma. No tour.

This project was originally funded by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and transitioned to the Iowa Nutrient Research Center. Staff time and expenses also were committed by the Iowa Beef Center and ISU Extension and Outreach.

Preregistrations for all locations are due Feb. 15. To preregister, call the Iowa Beef Center at 515-294-BEEF (2333) and leave your name, phone number and email address, along with the location you plan to attend. You also can email and provide the same information.


Photo by pwkirk/


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