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  • Last modified 97 days ago (April 11, 2019)

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Some cover crops are better choices than others

Staff writer

Cover crops have become a popular way to improve farmland, but cattle producers should be wise about which cover crops they choose, a crop adviser said.

Cover crops can increase soil nutrients, reduce erosion, and suppress weeds. For cattle producers, cover crops provide forage as well.

Chris Thompson, MKC strategic account manager and certified crop adviser, said oats, sometimes mixed with other seeds, are popular for spring planting with livestock producers.

MKC mixes seeds to their customer’s specifications, Thompson said.

“A lot of guys are mixing spring peas in them, and it increases protein,” Thompson said.

For summer planting, pearl millets are a one-season grass that grows well, he said.

“For fall planting we look at our cereals like rye and barley, which can work really good,” Thompson said.

Recent news reports point to high nitrates as the cause of cattle deaths in Missouri. Thompson said nitrate problems can be avoided.

“Nitrates are worse if you over-fertilize or the crops experience stress,” Thompson said. “If we think of hay production, nitrates typically accumulate in the bottom. When animals graze, they don’t eat the bottom of the stock.”

Cattle producers who know they will use the plants for grazing avoid over-fertilizing the plants, he said.

Jaymelynn Farney, beef systems specialist at the Southeast Research Extension Center in Parsons, recommends testing sorghum-sudan varieties of hay or pearl millets for nitrates before feeding them to cattle.

Last modified April 11, 2019

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