Grazing Cover Crops for Soil Health

For a long time, the tendency in modern farming has been to specialize, resulting in grazing animals being excluded from cropland. However, there is a new appreciation for the potential benefits of grazing animals for soil, crops, and farmers. By bringing the grazing animal back on the land we are in a way mimicking nature. Cover crops have been promoted to help improve soil health and reduce soil erosion and nutrient losses from cropland. They cover the land that would otherwise be sitting idle, again mimicking nature. Those cover crops can also be eaten by grazing animals, improving the financial bottom line of the farm. If done right, grazing cover crops can also help improve soil while maintaining the environmental benefits of the cover crops. If done wrong, however, grazing cover crops can become an environmental liability that can degrade soil. The key is proper cover crop and grazing management. In this factsheet we will discuss management strategies to optimize the soil health benefits of grazing cover crops, while avoiding soil erosion, detrimental soil compaction, and nutrient runoff.

cover of fact sheet showing crop and soils with a polywire temporary fence