Farmers use cover crops to reap plenty of benefits. Cover crops are a great way to slow down erosion or to stop weeds from covering fields. They can attract pollinators. Some varieties take nitrogen from the air and store it in their roots to benefit soil quality. And for livestock producers, cover crops have an added benefit: they also can serve as forage for grazing animals.
However, the reality takes more planning to avoid losses for farmers – some of them catastrophic.
Cover crops are a little bit like the story of Goldilocks: there are only some considered “just right” for cattle and deemed “very safe” by experts. Other varieties are “too hot or too cold”: they can cause metabolic issues for livestock that, while manageable, can be an unpleasant surprise for uninformed producers. Still other cover crop varieties are so toxic, they can kill entire herds.