Growing Beef newsletter

Director Column

@iowabeefcenter on Twitter Iowa Beef Center on Facebook Watch us on YouTube view IBC on Instagram Growing Beef newsletter

link opens in new window/tab note: pdf files open in new window/tab | click on headings for more information

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

Dan Loy in The Cattleman Magazine


June 2019

Turning the tide on dwindling Iowa pasture resources

The long awaited release of the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture has provided lots of statistics on the demographic trends in agriculture for Iowa and the U.S. One of the data points of interest is the decline in pasture acres in the state. Loss of pasture acres to row crops has been a continuous downward trend for decades. Between 2007 and 2012, Iowa lost 21% of its pastureland; however, that trend is beginning to level in 2017, with a loss of 4.8% of pasture between 2012 and 2017. During that same time period, Iowa expanded its beef cow herd by 53,000 cows (6%) to 939,000 cows. This has likely been accomplished through improved forage and pasture management and enhanced pasture production. Some increase in confined and supplemental feeding also likely played a role.

While this reduction in the rate of pasture loss is encouraging, for Iowa to meet the water quality goals set out by the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy of a 45% reduction in nutrient losses, the trend will need to be reversed. Among the most effective strategies for reduction in both nitrogen and phosphorous loads is conversion of cropland to permanent pastures. While cover crop acres are increasing statewide as a water quality strategy, the increase of pasture acres especially on vulnerable croplands needs to increase.

Given the narrow margins in crop production, now may be the best time to consider changes in land use. Some tools and resources to help make these decisions are available from ISU Extension. One decision aid is the Land Use Alternative Comparison Tool. To evaluate different beef cow systems to utilize these resources, our new publication "Iowa Cow-calf Production - Exploring Different Management Systems" (IBC-131) is available for free while supplies last. Also, as you turn your attention to summer grazing management remember the Pasture Management Guide (AS-14) was updated just last year. Look for forage and grazing events from the Iowa Beef Center and our partners and stay tuned to our website for updates.

Be sure to make your way to Ames later this month (June 28-29) for the Stockmanship and Stewardship event in Ames. This is one of only five regional events across the U.S., we’re bringing in a wealth of experts. Just to name a few: low stress cattle handling experts Curt Pate and Ron Gill will share their expertise, NCBA’s Sara Place will talk about myths and facts around beef sustainability and Alison Wedig from Culver’s will explain why sustainability matters to consumers. And that’s just the beginning. All participants will have the opportunity to be certified for BQA and BQA Transportation (BQAT). This program is cosponsored with Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and the Minnesota Cattlemen’s Association and Beef Council. Register online here.

Another opportunity for BQAT certification is June 12 in Emmetsburg. Contact Beth Doran for details.

An Update for Veterinarians is set for June 11 at the McNay Memorial Research Farm near Chariton. A solid program of beef health related updates is planned and Veterinarians can receive up to 6 hours of CE credit. Contact Chris Clark for details.

The Southwest Iowa Cattle Feeders Day will be held at the Armstrong Research Farm on June 13. This program will feature updates on ISU feedlot research that is relevant to the cattle feeding sector including research funding by the Iowa beef checkoff. Contact Erika Lundy for details.

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.