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Livestock’s Significance for Cover Crops

Diversifying your operation can be tricky. Some farmers believe diversifying means expanding from what they have. Bryan Jorgensen, who farms near Ideal, South Dakota, recognizes that he can vary his farm with what’s already there. A combination of livestock and cover crops give him the opportunity. 

Jorgensen, who raises cattle and grows wheat, says it’s important for cropland to have plant roots growing continuously. He puts in cover crops after the winter wheat harvest each July to achieve this. But there is an added bonus. 

“By putting the cattle back out on those acres in late fall and early winter, I’ve been able to utilize the cover crops and residue, but more importantly, cycle those nutrients back into the soil. It lowers my cost of nutrient load for the crops and the cost of feeding those animals,” he says. 


Livestock weren’t the only ones to benefit from cover crops. Practicing no-till on his crop acres, the health of Jorgensen’s soil was also improved.  

“The less we disturb the soil, the quicker it’s going to respond and build,” he explains. “A really important aspect of my operation is building organic matter so that when it rains, I can store that water. In cases when I get a lot of rain, I’ll eliminate or at least reduce the amount of erosion I get from the runoff.”

According to Jorgensen, native prairie sod is the best teacher when it comes to soil health and observing land. 

“Spending time each season digging up the soil and observing the vegetation has been very educational for me. Mother Nature’s been running the land efficiently and effectively for thousands of years. That really tells me what I can and can’t do in this part of the world,” Jorgensen says. 

Listen to the Radio Show podcast of this story on the Friday, September 4 episode, “The Livestock Connection with Cover Crops” at Agriculture.com/media-center/radio.

For more cover crop stories, visit Agriculture.com.

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The Successful Farming Radio Podcast is an Internet version of the Successful Farming Radio Show. Created by the editors of Successful Farming Magazine and Agriculture.com, each episode offers tales from the trenches, must-know-info, and expert advice.

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