Developing A Forage Plan

When the pasture greens up and ready for grazing, be sure there is enough quality forage. Planning now can reduce forage costs and enhance productivity.

Dan Undersander is an extension Forage Specialist at the University of Wisconsin. He says the general rule is two-to-four-acres per thousand pounds of animal. The pasture's tonnage output should be evaluated, but forage density is also a big consideration.   

"The taller the forage, the bigger the bite the animal takes. And so in the spring when we're grazing short forage, it's high-quality, but again the animal's going to get small bites and intake is going to suffer," says Undersander. "That pasture's also very high in water, which reduces the animal intake. It's important to feed some other forage along with this so that the animal can get the intake it needs."

Some animals require more high-energy forage than others. For example, a race horse or growing steer will have greater energy needs than an animal that's on a maintenance diet. What you plant also depends on your soil type and environment.  

"Kind of look at the way you intend to manage and use the pasture, and then choose either a bluegrass as a sod former for relatively low maintenance, choose an orchard grass or a tall fescue for higher production, an orchard grass for quick recovery, a tall fescue for shade, and drought and moisture stress, and then match the legume to that grass," he says.

Do a soil test. If any nutrients are limited, the pasture will not grow well.

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