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In a broad sense, a "forage" is any part of a plant that can be consumed by a grazing animal or that can be harvested for feeding. In general, however, the term "forage" refers to any pasture, hay, silage, or green-chop crop. Forages can be permanently established crops like pastures or hayfields (e.g., tall fescue, bermudagrass, bahiagrass, alfalfa, etc.) and annual crops (e.g, corn for silage, annual ryegrass, etc.).

Forage Systems

A forage system is any assembly cool and warm season forage crops that can meet the needs of the animal or livestock enterprise. Usually, forage-based livestock production depends on multiple forage crops within the system so that forage production continues throughout the growing season. Cattle, goats, sheep, horses, and other similar livestock come by forage utilization naturally. Their digestive system allows the animals to derive energy, protein, and other nutrients from fibrous feed sources.

Grazing Systems

Typically, the most cost-effective way for these animals to consume their forage is by allowing them to graze. To make grazing as efficient and cost-effective as possible, an appropriate grazing system is necessary. Establishing a rotational grazing system is the best way to optimize forage utilization and consumption on limited pasture acreage.

Conserved Forage Systems

In the majority of livestock enterprises, supplemental forage will need to be provided during some periods of the year. Forage produced in one part of the season can be conserved and stored for later feeding. The most common example of this is the production of hay. Hay is the product of cutting, drying, packaging, and storing forage. Hay must be dried to moisture levels of 15% or less in order to avoid deterioration (i.e., molding or rotting) during storage. Another common example of forage conservation is the production of silage. Silage is produced when a crop is successfully cut, packaged and stored in the absence of oxygen, and allowed to ferment. The fermentation process produces natural organic acids that stabilize the crop and prevents spoilage or deterioration of the crop. Silage can be produced in a number of different packages or storage methods. Examples include (but are not limited to) upright silos, bunker or pit silos, silage bags, and baleage.

Planning an Appropriate Forage System

Information provided on the University of Georgia's Forage website (link to can help you plan an appropriate forage system for your livestock enterprise(s). Recommendations are provided on that website on each element of the forage system, including:

There are a number of other forage-related websites where one can obtain information on, for example, how to develop a management-intensive grazing system or how to produce switchgrass for forage and/or biomass for biofuel.


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UGA-affiliated sites

  • Forages
    A wide variety of forage management issues and information about adapted species, establishment guidelines, fertilization guidelines, pest management, publications, archives, FAQs, a glossary, and links.
  • Forages & Grazing Resources
    A list of links and resources concerning forages.
  • Impact Statements: Forages
    Descriptions of Extension efforts to improve knowledge and practices related to forages.
  • Management-Intensive Grazing
    An overview of management-intensive grazing (MIG), which refers to several grazing systems wherein animals are allowed to graze only a small portion of the pasture while others areas are rested and allowed to recover.
  • Soil & Forage Test Labs
    Links and information regarding UGA's Soil, Plant, and Water Lab.
  • Soybean, Sorghum & Forage Performance Tests
    Results from UGA's annual Soybean, Sorghum Grain & Silage, Summer Annual Forages and Sunflower Performance tests, from 1997 through 2010.
  • Warm-Season Grass Breeding: Forages
    Information about Bermudagrasses and cultivars.

External sites

  • American Forage and Grassland Council
    Non-profit organization providing educational and networking resources for the forage and grassland industry. Their site features industry resources and information about upcoming events, competitions, professional development, membership, affiliate councils, and contact information.