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

Dan Loy in The Cattleman Magazine


November 2020

Cattlemen and Regenerative Agriculture

Through the work of groups such as the US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef many beef producers have become more comfortable with the notion of sustainable beef. Building on the basis of economic viability, social responsibility and environmental soundness the group has developed metrics, indicators and sustainblity assessment guides that define progress. Now some of the same companies that are part of this effort are developing projects in a newer arena called regenerative agriculture.

So what is regenerative agriculture? One of the largest regenerative agriculture projects is by General Mills. They intend to support one million acres farmed with regenerative methods by 2030. Through this project GM identifies the following six core principles of regenerative agriculture:

  1. Understand the context of your farming operation.
  2. Minimize soil disturbance.
  3. Maximize crop diversity.
  4. Keep the soil covered.
  5. Maintain living roots in the soil year round.
  6. Integrate livestock into your operation.

GM has developed a self-assessment tool in which most cattle producers would score very high. Our own surveys confirm that cattlemen are leaders in implementing the use of cover crops, incorporating forages into crop rotation and farming with no-till methods, and by definition livestock are included on cattle farms. These practices already are the norm for many of you, and help improve water quality, retain moisture for resilience to drought conditions, improve soil heath, improve biodivesity and sequester carbon. This is a good news story that clearly shows cattle are part of the solution, not the problem.

Our team continues to get questions from those of you looking at dealing with grazing of downed corn fields. This can be managed successfully but with some precautions. This fact sheet is a good resource, as are any of our regional beef specialists. Are you looking at balancing rations with some of the more unusual feedstuffs this year like drought stressed corn silage or CRP forage? One tool is our Beef Ration and Nutrition Decisions (BRaNDS) software. The various versions of this program have been recently updated and are now available on the ISU Extension Store.

At the Iowa Beef Center we are currently in the process of making decsisions about the format of our programs in an effort to keep people safe in light of the pandemic. We will continue to provide in persion BQA certification sessions. Check the Iowa Beef Industry Council BQA page regularly for a session near you. Some of our larger events may be moving to a virtual format or might be postponed. Local educational programming will continue, though using social distancing guidelines from the State of Iowa, Iowa State University and the CDC. Look for more information from us as specific programs are developed and decsions are made on our annual events. Regardless of the delivery system we remain committed to bringing you the latest research based information and education on beef production and management as well as access to leading industry experts.

We continue to be excited to host the Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Research Symposium and Convention June 22-25, 2021, at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. This annual symposium draws a large group of leading seedstock and commercial beef producers, academics and allied industry partners, and we are working on all the details involved to make this a success. Please put this event on your calendar and look for more information as the plans develop.


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 our "Ask our Experts" link. Also, feel free to call us at 515-294-BEEF or email us at You can follow @iowabeefcenter on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. And be sure and listen to our newest venture - the Iowa Beef Center Podcast!