High-Quality Forage Boosts Animal Performance

US - The ultimate test of forage quality is animal performance. Producing high quality forages is vital to improved animal performance, whether your goal is more pounds of milk, a higher rate of gain, or an improved conception rate.
calendar icon 18 May 2007
clock icon 1 minute read
Forages provide a major percentage of the nutrients for beef and dairy cattle, sheep and goats, horses and ruminant wildlife. If the quality isn’t right, you can’t feed animals enough forage to achieve production goals.

Forage quality is defined as “the extent to which a forage, whether pasture, hay or silage, has the ability to produce the desired animal response.”

While many factors affect forage quality, the stage of maturity at harvest is the single most important consideration. It also is the one over which producers can make the most progress. Protein content, digestibility and acceptability to livestock drops as legumes and grasses move from the vegetative, or leafy, stage to the reproductive, or seed, stage. For instance, grasses may contain more than 30 percent protein at the immature, leafy stage, but drop to less than eight percent protein when they mature.

Because we have considerable variation in quality among the various forage species, choosing plant species is another important factor in producing high-quality forages. Generally, legumes are higher quality than grasses. Cool season grasses usually are more digestible than warm-season grasses. Plant breeders continue to improve forage quality within species, so variation also exists within species among varieties.

Source: Glasgow Daily Times
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