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.).
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.
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 http://www.caes.uga.edu/commodities/fieldcrops/forages/) 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:
- Production of the various forage crops that could be used
- Establishment recommendations
- Management strategies to provide good soil fertility
- Prevention or control of pests
- How to appropriately graze or harvest and store those crops, etc.
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.
Commercial and Professional Publications
- Forage Systems for Horses in Georgia
- 1999 Soybean, Sorghum Grain and Silage, Grain Millet, and Summer Annual Forages Performance Tests
- 2000 Soybean, Sorghum Grain and Silage, Grain Millet, Sunflower, and Summer Annual Forages Performance Tests
- Understanding and Improving Forage Quality
- 2013 Soybean, Sorghum Grain and Silage, and Summer Annual Forages Performance Tests
- Stockpiling Tall Fescue for Fall and Winter Grazing
- Selecting a Forage Bermudagrass Variety
- 2010 Soybean, Sorghum Grain and Silage, Summer Annual Forages, and Sunflower Performance Tests
- Feeding Drought-Damaged Cotton and Peanut Crops to Beef Cattle
- Nitrate Toxicity
- Bermudagrass in Georgia
- Blister Beetles in Georgia Alfalfa Hay
- Forage Use and Grazing Herd Management during a Drought
- The Management and Use of Bahiagrass
- Planting Guide to Grasses and Legumes for Forage and Wildlife in Georgia
- 2012 Soybean, Sorghum Grain and Silage, and Summer Annual Forages Performance Tests
- 2009 Soybean, Sorghum Grain and Silage, Summer Annual Forages and Sunflower Performance Tests
- 2011-2012 Georgia Small Grains Performance Tests
- Production Costs vs. Feeding Value of Forages
- Georgia FARM*A*SYST: Managing Pests on Croplands and Pastures
For the latest news about Extension, visit Georgia FACES. News you can use about Georgia family, agricultural, consumer and enviromental sciences.
- Farmer uses SARE grant to study winter cover crops
- Low forage quality has Georgia cattlemen concerned
- High cattle prices tempting for cattlemen to sell
- Feed supplementation needed for Georgia cattle farmers
- Johnsongrass and frost can be bad combination for cattle
- UGA CAES educates, informs during Sunbelt Expo
- All hay is not created equal: using the Relative Forage Quality Index
- Control pasture weeds with mower, herbicides and good management
- Spring rains impact forage production
- Forage pest having major impact
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.
- 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.