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Assessing the impact of grazing annual forage cover crops in an integrated crop-livestock system

Project Code: FRG.08.18
Completed: In Progress. Results expected in March 2022.

Project Title:

Assessing the impact of grazing annual forage cover crops in an integrated crop-livestock system

Researchers:

Jillian Bainard, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Swift Current Jillian.Bainard@agr.gc.ca

Steve Crittenden - BRDC AAFC, Luke Bainard - SCRDC AAFC, Tristan Skolrud - University of Saskatchewan, Mike Schellenberg - SCRDC AAFC, Alan Iwaasa - SCRDC AAFC

Background

Cover crops are known not only for their nutritious feed value for cattle but also their ability to improve certain aspects of soil health. This suggests that there are opportunities for synergies between livestock and crop producers to provide both animal feed and soil improvements. These synergies have yet to be quantified under Canadian conditions.  

Objectives

To quantify the benefits associated with integrated crop-livestock systems. Our objectives are to assess how grazing a forage cover crop within an annual cropping rotation. 

What they will do

Researchers are going to access the value of integrated livestock and crop systems. This trial will take place on 3 different producers farms in SK and MB. This project will look at the soil health, productivity, ecosystem services, and economics of adding cover crops into a cropping system.  

They will use 4 treatments:  

  • control (annual crop rotation of legume, cereal, oilseed, cereal)  

  • simple mixture (2 cereals, a legume and a brassica)  

  • complex mixture (2 cool season cereals, 2 warm season crops, 2 legumes, 2 brassicas) 

The trial will go 4 years rotating between a cereal and the mixtures. Cattle will either graze the mixtures at the end of the growing season or they will be harvested for silage and fed to cattle.  

Implications

This should provide scientific date around the soil health, economic, productivity and ecosystem service value of integrating crops and livestock using a cover cropping system. 

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