Forage Management Traits

Listed below are some key traits to consider in the pursuit of managing our forages.

  1. Use the best forage genetics available. Low quality forages do not have a place in rations for today’s prolific livestock. Forage quality starts with the genetics in the seed that many take for granted.
  2. Maintain good soil fertility and balance. Soil fertility does affect forage yields and quality.
  3. Plan a crop rotation to fit your ration goals. Use a variety of forages to increase soil organic matter and reduce weed pressure, disease problems, crop failures, and enhance nutrient management plans, etc.
  4. Use good management to grow, harvest, and store top quality forages. Forages can lose 20% or more of their nutrient value during a poor fermentation.
  5. Feed a high forage ration. Forage DM should make up 60% or more of the ration. Well-eared corn silage should be figured at approximately 50% grain and 50% forage on a DM basis. An accurate way to calculate this is divide the starch percent of the corn silage by .70 (the amount of starch in corn. Eg 37% (starch in your corn silage) divided by 0.7 = approximately 53% corn and 47% fodder.
  6. Feed sources of starch that are highly available, such as the starch found in Masters Choice corn hybrids. The % of starch when using MC corn hybrids should not exceed 25% of ration dry matter.
  7. Target sugar concentrations of 6-10% of the ration DM. Take advantage of the high sugars in the NDF of grasses
  8. Feed a combination of warm season and cool season grasses to maximize rumen function.

Management of a grass stand will dictate which grasses survive. How tall should grasses be to start grazing depends on: grass species, weather and the time of year.

  • When a pasture gets “out of control”, up to 70% will produce seed heads.
  • In a well managed pasture, 20 % will produce seed heads.
  • When Perennial Ryegrass has 2 ½ – 3 new leaves, grazing can be started.
  • For Tall Fescue, 3 – 3 ½ leaves.
  • After the 4th leaf comes on, the 1st leaf dies.
  • Do not cut or graze below the growing point.
  • Orchardgrasses have bigger tillers, but not as many.

Keep plants on the rapid growth curve.

Original Source:Byron Seeds 2010 Resource Guide.