Cover Crop Grazing Partnerships

Cover crops are good for the soil, and also for livestock that graze on them. If you don’t own cattle, consider leasing your land to someone who does in a cover crop grazing partnership. Many cover crops are planted and grazed after wheat harvest in the fall, or before corn and soybean planting in the spring.

Tyler Williams is an extension educator at the University of Nebraska. He says before any animals take their first bite, the two parties have to agree on the details.

"The key things I think initially are the goals for the producer, the timing of the grazing, and how heavily grazed do they want the cover crop. So, talking through all of those things in advance and then you talk money, right? What’s it worth, and a lot of that depends on how much is growing out there, how long they can graze," says Williams. "Definitely most important is making sure that it falls within the plan for the crop producer."

There are many ways to set pricing in the arrangement such as a per-head-per-month basis or on a per-acre basis. The cattle owner could pay for all or most of the cost of the cover crop establishment with rights to graze it in return.  But Williams says the most equitable way is by the feed value.

"How much can you get out there, how long are you grazing, but also what is the quality of the cover crop? Ideally you want to get the protein content tested just to see what sort of value. If you have higher quality feed value out there, it’s worth more to the rancher or the cattle owner, especially if they’re putting out maybe some feeder animals, get some good growth out there," he says. "So, it ultimately comes down to how much is out there and what the quality is."

The agreement should also take weather into account and have a backup plan.