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Cover Crop Grazing Caution

Cover crops are planted on a field to reduce soil erosion and increase soil health. They’re usually either left on the surface to decay or incorporated back into the soil. If you’re planning to graze or feed your cover crops to livestock, be aware of the implications from chemical residues left over from the previous crop, such as corn or soybeans.

Meaghan Anderson is an extension field crop specialist with Iowa State University. She says before cover crops are used to feed animals, pay attention to the chemical labels.

"We maybe even need to be checking ones from the previous years as well depending on what kind of cover crops we’re actually seeding out there because they do have what we call rotational restrictions on them that may say, after you use this herbicide you need to wait four months before you seed something like wheat, any cereal grain," says Anderson.

Some cover crop species such as radish, turnip, rapeseed and red clover aren’t explicitly listed on chemical labels. In this case, growers need to follow the default listing on the label which usually says something like “all other crops”.

"And that “all other crops” category may say that you have to wait 18 months or 30 months before you seed a species that’s not listed on that label and intend to harvest it. You can seed the species if you’re not going to do anything with it because then you just take the risk upon yourself that maybe the cover crop dies," she says. "But as soon as you intend to do something with that, then we really need to be paying attention to those rotational restrictions on the label."