Harvesting high quality forage is one of the cheapest ways to feed cows, and can be an effective way of reducing feed costs. Cows feeding on grass stimulate higher forage productivity and nutrients are returned to the grassland in their excreta avoiding costly and risky manure management. Moreover, grazing cover crops and perennial pasture can be a vital component to making continuous cover economical for you.
But accessing land to graze, or finding livestock farmers to partner with, can be a barrier to expanding integrated crop-livestock systems. A new website by the Midwest Perennial Forage Working Group – a network of grazing educators in the Upper Midwest seeks to address this challenge.
The Midwest Grazing Exchange is a free matchmaking service that aims to connect graziers and landowners who live in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. Graziers can search for forage to graze and landowners can search for livestock to graze their land. Bascially – its Tinder for cows.
The website lets folks:
- search listings, including through an interactive map with filters for criteria like season, land or livestock type
- create listings of what land or livestock they have to offer
- create a free account to save listings of interest, add new listings, see contact details and message other users
- browse a curated list of grazing resources, including examples of grazing lease agreements and contracts
- explore the benefits regenerative grazing for both landowners and livestock owners
The website also lists grazing specialists and organizations offering grazing support for each state participating in the exchange.
“Integrating livestock on the landscape is a win-win-win for soil, animals and profitability,” says Meghan Filbert, livestock program manager at Practical Farmers of Iowa who helped lead development of the new website. “The Midwest Grazing Exchange is unique because it serves multiple states in the Upper Midwest and expands beyond cover crop grazing. All grazing scenarios, including woodland and urban grazing, are represented. We want to unlock the plethora of benefits that come with well-managed grazing, and created a space to do so.” Farmers and landowners are encouraged to explore the site, and create an account to add livestock or land they have to offer.
The Midwest Perennial Forage Working Group’s mission is to increase land used for pasture and perennial forage production in the Upper Midwest, and to improve the environmental performance of farming systems while maintaining agricultural production and profitability. In addition to creating the Midwest Grazing Exchange, the group also recently debuted a new infographic on the ways perennial forage can protect infrastructure. Be sure to check out their website for a host of perennial forage resources on cover crops grazing, dairy grazing, and soil health.