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Dan Loy, Iowa Beef Center director's monthly column featured in Cattleman Magazine. Archives

Dan Loy in The Cattleman Magazine


April 2019

Green Thoughts

After a long and brutal winter, it is time to turn the page and talk about things more optimistic, and green. The economics of agriculture are challenging today and there has been much discussion and concern about farm stress. If you know someone who needs help coping with these challenges, remember Iowa Concern, a free confidential service offered by ISU Extension. You can contact Iowa Concern by phone (800-447-1985) or online.

For many of you, however, warmer temperatures and the prospects of a new growing season will help cure some of the winter blues. Let’s think green. Given the current economic situation, we know many farmers are looking for a third crop in addition to the traditional corn and soybeans.  In our listening sessions this winter it was clear that beef producers are testing some very creative options. One option discussed in several of our sessions is incorporating summer annuals as part of the rotation. These forages can produce as much as 3-7 tons of forage per acre, depending on the plant species. Example forages are sorghum-sudangrass or millets but there are other options. When properly supplemented, these forages can provide winter feed for beef cows, the base for backgrounding rations or be grazed by stockers or cows in the summer.

If you seeded cereal rye this past fall, weather permitting you may be grazing it now. We have an ongoing research project funded by the Iowa Nutrient Research Center with cattle grazing at the ISU McNay Research Farm in Chariton, the Western Iowa Research Farm near Castana and the Allee Farm at Newell. Through this project we hope to learn the keys to success from year to year depending on the location across the state and the environmental conditions for spring grazing of cereal rye. For more information check out our fact sheet "Grazing Opportunities with Cereal Rye".

As you look toward summer grazing opportunities, we highly recommend our newly revised Pasture Management Guide, available on the ISU Extension store website. This resource should be on every grazier’s bookshelf. Another frequent topic in our listening sessions this winter was land access and challenges with rented pastures, especially with young producers. Our publication "Pasture and Grazing Arrangements for Beef Cattle" provides information related to these options.

While the calving season is well underway, there are a lot of Iowa calves born in the month of April. Be sure to take a look at our new online Calving Manual. This is a great resource for everything related to calving and the calving process.

One other brand new publication from the Iowa Beef Center is "Iowa Cow-calf Production - Exploring Different Management Systems". This is the final product of the Cow Systems Project, a three-year effort in which 24 Iowa cow-calf producers opened up their operations and shared production and financial information. These producers ranged from confined cow operations to year-round graziers.

Finally, mark your calendars for June 28-29 when NCBA’s Stockmanship and Stewardship program comes to Ames at the Hansen Ag Student Learning Center. Look for more on this great opportunity to watch Dr. Ron Gill and Curt Pate demonstrate low stress cattle handling, Sara Place from NCBA talk about sustainability in the beef industry, certify yourself in BQA and BQA transportation and much more.

The IBC at Iowa State University serves as the university’s extension program to cattle producers. Our center comprises a team of faculty and staff from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. We work together to develop and deliver the latest in research-based information to improve the profitability and vitality of Iowa’s beef industry. If you’d like to be notified of updates on progress of research projects or programs that might be coming to your area, please subscribe to our “Growing Beef” newsletter by following the link on our website, If you have a question, use the “Ask our Experts” link on the website. Also, feel free to call us at 515-294-BEEF or email us at You can also follow @iowabeefcenter on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.