Developing a Forage Program

Forage and Livestock production cab be very complex. Development of a program requires good and deep planning. The main objective should be identifying the needs and opportunities available.


Matching Crops to Need

After making decisions on forage availability, one consideration should be the nutritional needs of the varieties and livestock to be grazed or fed forage harvested from the field. Lower quality varieties might be suitable to areas with lower cow-calf production. Another basic goal of any animal-plant component is maximizing the length of grazing season. A grazing program should be to grow a variety of forage crops which will provide good grazing over an extended period of time, thus reducing stored feed requirements. Using mixtures of forages species can help accomplish this goal. One example is, the overall grazing season of a ryegrass mixture will be longer than of a pasture of small grain alone. The same occurs when red clover-tall fescue pastured is compared to a pasture consisting only of tall fescue.

Soil Testing and Fertility

Proper fertilization and liming normally result in increases in forage production. It is highly desirable to keep a record of the soil fertility and pH of your field. One good approach is to make a file for each field and keep soil test reports for future comparisons. Fertilizing and liming at the proper times and rates recommended by soil tests are basic to good pasture management. For most forage species, certain minimum levels of fertilization and liming are necessary to maintain a good forage stand. However, heavy fertilization is much more feasible when stocking rates are high than when they are low.

Use of Legumes

Growing legumes with grasses can be more profitable than growing grasses alone. Legumes can improve the production and nutritional value of pastures while reducing nitrogen fertilization requirements. Besides, increasing nitrogen availability, temperate legumes can help bridge a gap between winter and summer pastures.

  • Red clover is a crown forming legume adapted to tall grazing heights and long rest periods. Red clover is more persistent under rotational grazing.
  • White clover is a low-growing, clone-forming legume well adapted to continuous grazing. A limitation is its inability to survive hot and dry summers.
  • Crimson clover will produce more forage at lower temperatures than other clovers and can be grazed throughout the winter months.


  • Development of a good forage program requires time and joint efforts from the producers of the area.
  • Having basic concepts and principles in mind throughout the planning process is important.
  • Keeping good written records also will help to facilitate proper management and best decisions.






Posted: June 20, 2019

Category: Agriculture, Crops, Livestock
Tags: Cattle, Forage, Legume, Soil

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