Stewards of the Land

The Stewards of the Land Program is intended to improve grazing practices in Iowa while simultaneously providing environmental benefits, such as improved soil health and water quality. The program is grant funded by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) with additional support from the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, the Iowa Cattlemen's Foundation, Prairie Creek Seed, and Byron Seeds.


January 2017 Iowa Cattleman - State of the Grazing Industry 

January 2017 ICA Cow/Calf Chronicle email newsletter

February 2017 Iowa Cattleman - Rethink Fertilizing your Pasture

February 2017 ICA Cow/Calf Chronicle email newsletter

March 2017 Iowa Cattleman - Frost Seeding and Interseeding Options

ICA Grazing Advisor - Linda Shumate

email Linda or call 515-296-2266

ICA represents over 10,000 beef producing families and industries. With a mission to 'Grow Iowa's beef business through advocacy, leadership and education,’ ICA has focused on efforts to enhance the number of cows, cattlemen, and grassland acres in the state. 

As corn prices sky-rocketed to $7 dollars three years ago and interest increased in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) due to higher rental rates, it’s no wonder why the number of cows on grass has decreased in Iowa over the past few years.  There seem to be more incentives for producers raising crops vs. livestock and the cow-calf producer.  

According to the USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture, the state of Iowa has lost roughly 1,600 cow/calf farms and over 110,000 cow/calf pairs since 2007. Given Iowa’s fertile soil and recent record high commodity prices, it is clear the state’s cow/calf sector suffered from a reduction in the number of pasture and forage acres. 

According to the Iowa Beef Center Cow/Calf Producer Survey, 60% of producers felt that non-cattle production competition affected their ability to buy or rent additional pasture or hay acres, with 80% of the competition falling to row crop conversion.

Additionally, the state will likely see a transformation over the next 5-10 years regarding the concentration of acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). At this time Iowa has 1,167,785 acres enrolled in the CRP program. In October 2017, close to 20% of enrolled CRP acres will have contracts up for expiration. At that time, landowners will have to make a decision to either re-enroll acres in the CRP program or put them back into production growing crops or grazing livestock. With diminished funds predicted for CRP from a federal perspective, resources are needed to ensure marginal acres are managed as grasslands. 

These challenges do not mean the cow-calf industry cannot be productive and profitable. With proper grazing management practices, producers can increase stocking ability on few acres.  Along with stocking more cows, by increasing the overall soil health in our pastures, producers will be able to sustain longer grazing periods, possibly reducing additional hay expenses later.  By encouraging proper grazing management, producers will not only improve soil health but will also have a positive impact on Iowa’s water quality.

Cattlemen are often recognized as the original stewards of the land. Cattle farmers and ranchers must first take care of soil and water quality in order for their cattle operation to be productive. However, there is extensive competition for grassland acres and limited technical assistance specific to grazing management available in the state currently.

In today’s world, with tight margins and risk filled markets, making the decision to allocate additional acres to grasslands requires financial investment and technical expertise. Through the Stewards of the Land project, ICA is able to provide these resources to cattlemen who have a positive impact on the state’s natural resources.

As your new grazing advisor and facilitator of the Stewards of the Land program, I’m here as a resource to help you. I can assist you in finding potential cost-share incentives to implement good conservation practices, creating a strong management plan which can potentially increase your return on investment.

Together, we can work to grow and improve your operation, the cow-calf industry in Iowa, and our state’s environmental sustainability in 2017. Contact me at or 515-296-2266 to get started and watch for several educational events across the state in the coming year.