Foraging for feed

December 15, 2013

Forage is a type of grass or legume used to feed cattle in many different forms. The most common are grass in the pasture, corn silage and alfalfa bailed for hay or chopped as silage.

Grass: Plants typically have narrow leaves; hollow, jointed stems, and flowers that top the plant that become seed heads.

Legumes: Plants that form seed pods, like red clover. They have broad leaves and colorful flowers. They 'fix,' or make their own fertilizer from nitrogen in the air.


In a ripe green pasture cattle harvest feed for themselves by grazing on the grasses that grow in the field. As a part of pasture maintenance the farmer or rancher will add fertilizers and weed killers to be sure that what is available for grazing is only the highest quality grass with tons of protein and valuable nutrients.

There are different types of grass depending on where you live so the fertilizers used or the weeds needing rid of will very as well. The farmers and ranchers take great pride and care to be sure they are providing the best feed for their animals.

Read more about weed identification here.

A few types of grass are:


Reed Canarygrass

Smooth Bromegrass

Meadow Fescue

Follow this link to find out even more about pasture grasses!


Farmer’s cut grasses and legumes in the field, let them dry, and then bale them for feeding to the cattle at a later date. The most popular legume to use for hay is Alfalfa, because of its rich nutrient value for the animals.

A few types of plants used for hay:


White Clover

Red Clover

Want to learn even more about hay? Here you go!


Farmer’s cut grass and legumes chopping them while still moist in order to gather the entire green plant including the grain. They store the harvested fodder in ground piles, silos or silo bags to ferment in order to preserve them to use as feed all through the winter months until next year’s harvest.

Gathering the grain along with the roughage allows for a greater nutritional value as well as increased substance of the feed.

Popular types of silage include:

Corn Silage


There is so much to learn about silage, check out this article for more!

Why are forages needed in a cow's diet?

Cows are ruminant animals, created to eat grasses and legumes that are high in fiber. They need feed that is high in fiber to have normal rumen function and digestion. Forages also help cows meet their nutritional needs, especially plants such as alfalfa that are high in protein and calcium.

Forage quality is a very important factor of the feed.  Forage quality can be defined as the extent to which forage has the potential to produce the desired animal response. It has a direct effect on the animal performance, weight gain, milk production, and reproductive efficiency such as higher conception rates when cattle are feed the best forage available.

In order to keep your animal healthy, happy and productive it is important to pay high attention to the type of feed and it's quality.


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