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Demonstration of Cover Crop Mixtures for Grain and Livestock Grazing

Updated: May 25

Research Coordinator: Dr. Akim Omokanye

Collaborating Producer: Mark & Tracy Vetsch (MD of Greenview)

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2014 Annual Report

Soil conservation, nutrient sequestration, weed suppression, improved soil health, and optimizing grain and forage production, among others, are some of the reasons why some producers have had a great interest in including cover crop usage in their beef cattle production systems. The crop species we can use for cover crops and grazing is extensive. Common choices for covers include cereal grains, oats, annual ryegrass, peas, vetch, sudangrass, brassicas, and clovers. Diverse mixes can serve the purpose of improving soil health, holding soil, and providing cheap forage. Properly timed plantings of annuals can make a great system to put weight on growing cattle. Gabe Brown, one of PCBFA’s guest speakers this year, is a cover crop guru, a cover crop promoter and is also in the beef cattle business and grazes cover crops has documented soil health improvements and at the same time realized significant savings in feeding costs.


The demonstration took place at Mark & Tracy Vetsch’s organic farm, near Valleyview on RGE Rd 215 by TWP Rd 720. Prior to this year, the producer had oats and peas rotation at the site (areas of the field have been designated by NW8 & SW8). Table 1 shows history of site, soil analysis from 0-6” depth (done by Exova laboratory, Edmonton) and cover crop cocktail mixtures used. For SW8, which had peas in 2013 and oats/green manure in 2012, appeared to have higher OM, N and P than NW8 which had oats in 2013.

This year, Natouche peas was directed seeded at 2 bushels/acre (7-9 seeds/ft2) at 2” in a N-S direction and oats was seeded at 1.6 bushels/acre (15.28 seeds/ft2) at 3/4” in a E-W direction (at 90 degrees) to Natouche peas on both fields. Row spacing was 12”. The peas were inoculated with Novozymes Cell Tech Peat. The intent of the oat and pea mixture was to harvest for a grain crop. The remaining crop seeds in the cocktail mixtures 2, 3 and 4 were broadcast with a Valmar and harrowed, with the intent to graze these mixtures.

Table 2 below shows the different crops used and their seeding rates in the cocktail mixtures. Seeding of the mixtures was done from May 19-22.