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Getting Off the Cob - Cattle Producers Look to Switch from Corn

June 13, 2008

Des Moines, IA – Conventional dairy and beef production in Iowa may be heading toward a fundamental change. For generations, livestock producers have fed cattle mostly grains, such as corn. But, with grain prices at all time highs, more producers are looking to finish animals on grass.

Angie Tagtow, a dietician and consultant with Environmental Nutrition Solutions in Elkhart, says there are many reasons to make the switch, such as improving animal health. That, she adds, provides a healthier meal to consumers as well.

"We are finding that pasture-raised, grass-fed animals offer a wide range of healthy fatty acids as compared to grain-fed animals."

Tagtow says pasture feeding also can reduce environmental damage through the need for less chemical application.

"It actually nourishes the soil. The healthier the soil is, the healthier the plants are. And, of course, when the plants are healthy, then the animals are healthier with access to optimum nutrition."

A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists recommends the U.S. Department of Agriculture support more research into pasture management to help livestock producers make a profitable switch. That report is available online at

Dick Layman/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - IA