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CSP Helps Rancher Improve Quality & Increase Quantity of Pastures

By Christy Morgan, Program Analyst, NRCS


Drs Sam and Lynn CofieldFor cattle farmers, it boils down to daily gains. The quality of the forage is a key factor. One Kentucky farmer and veterinarian understands this fact.  Dr. Sam Cofield from Cadiz, Kentucky has been farming with his wife Lynn (also a veterinarian) for over 30 years. 


In 2010, Cofield applied and was accepted into the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).  CSP encourages land stewards to improve their conservation performance by installing and adopting additional activities, and improving, maintaining, and managing existing activities on agricultural land and nonindustrial private forest land.


Now, five years into the program, the Cofield farm is benefiting from the enhancement practices. “We have done several critical area plantings on eroded areas, installed exclusion fences around sinkholes, installed creek ford crossing structures and erosion control structures on waterways,” Cofield said.  In addition to these practices, water lines have been installed with buried hydrants to make water available on more areas of the farm. All these improvements have reduced soil erosion, improved grazing utilization, and assisted with the overall management of the herds.


In addition to the structural improvements on the farm, the Cofield’s are also focused on improving the forage quality.  They understand the relationship between healthy soil and quality pastures.  Depending on the nutritional needs of livestock, seeding the right mix as well as implementing a well managed rotational grazing system leads to the daily gain cattle farmers seek. “To improve the pastures, we seed legumes and warm season grasses,” Cofield explained.

Implementing a rotational grazing system also allows time for the pastures to rest, improving the health of the soil and providing a habitat for wildlife. Cofield rotates herds to a different pasture every four to seven days during Spring and early Summer and every two weeks during Fall and early Winter.  “We try to keep the cows and calves on forage as much of the year as possible,” he said.

The Cofield’s strive to maintain and improve soil health and plant diversity in pastures which provides the quality forage they need for healthy herds and daily gains.  If you’d like more information on how to improve the quality of your pastures, contact a USDA NRCS Service Center near you.