FORAGE MANAGEMENT BAG226

Learn how to manage forage resources

Forage is plant material taken by livestock as they browse or graze. It may be grown as a crop or occur naturally.

Learn how to:

  • Select appropriate plants for forage crop production
  • Cultivate and maintain forage crops
  • Regulate livestock access to forage plants
  • Preserve forage as hay and silage

Proper forage management is crucial to agricultural success and sustainability. Selecting appropriate forage crops and improving forage quality can help transform an unprofitable farm into a commercial success.

In this course you will learn how to achieve optimal forage production in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner.

Duration: 100 hours

COURSE STRUCTURE

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Scope and Nature of Forage Resources
    • Introduction
    • Terminology
    • Types of Forage
    • Types of Forage Lands
    • What different Animals Eat - Avian, Monogastric, Ruminants, Pseudo Ruminant
    • Managing Forage Ecosystems
    • Over grazing
    • Continuous vs Rotational Grazing
    • Ecosystem Health
    • Weed Types
    • Weed Populations
  2. Grassland Species and Ecosystems
    • Different Ways to Feed Animals
    • Different Fodder Systems
    • Different Fodder Plants - grasses, legumes, roots, wildflowers, forbs
  3. Fodder Trees & Shrubs
    • Definitions
    • Advantages & Disadvantages of Fodder Trees
    • Using Fodder Trees
    • Harvesting Foliage - pollarding, coppicing, browse blocks, leaf fall, silvopasture systems
    • Criteria for plant selection
    • Financial considerations
    • Considering Tree Species - Acacias, Bamboos, Beech, Black locust, Carob, Honey Locust, Pome Fruits and many more
  4. Forage Establishment
    • Natural area Grazing
    • Seeding
    • Soil - soil biome, rhizosphere, autotoxicity
    • Weed Management
    • Biodiversity -riparian zone, birds
  5. Forage Management
    • Regenerative Grazing Management
    • Improving Soil Quality
    • Strategies for Soil Improvement - crop rotation, tillage, zero tillage, fertility testing, soil compaction, soil cover
    • Fertiliser Management
    • NPK
    • Using Legumes
    • Irrigation Management
    • Animal Management
    • Animal Access Management - hedges, wire, barbed wire, electric fence, stone walls, banks/rises, gates, digital fencing tech
    • Controlled Burning
    • Pest and Disease Management
  6. Forage Quality and Use
    • Understanding Quality -palatability. intake, digestibility. nutrients, anti quality forage, animal performance
    • Composition and Analysis- moisture content, crude protein, fibre, energy, minerals, relative feed value etc
    • Cutting
  7. Forage (animal) related disorders
    • Recognising ill health
    • Seasonal and Conditional Disorders -bloat, acidosis, nitrate poisoning, prussic acid, grass tetany, phytoestrogens, etc
    • Overgrazing
    • Parasites
    • Worms
    • Species Related Disorders - fescue taxicosis, endophyte toxins, ryegrass staggers, antiquality components, phenolic compounds
    • Seasonal and Conditional Disorders -plant poisoning
    • Disorders Associated with Stored Forages
  8. Preserving Forage as Hay & Silage
    • Making Hay - curing, weather factors, etc
    • Mowing
    • Conditioning
    • Swathe Manipulation to Speed Drying
    • Hay Storage and Preservation
    • Phases in Silage Fermentation
    • Silage Storage
    • Silage Management

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

COURSE AIMS

  • Discuss the nature and scope of forage plants eaten by animals, both in captivity and in the wild.
  • Identify the comparative characteristics of grasses and other low growing fodder plants from different natural and created habitats, including grasses, legumes and forbs.
  • Identify the comparative characteristics of grasses and other low growing fodder plants from different natural and created habitats including a range of trees and shrubs.
  • Explain how forage plants may be established effectively in a managed pasture.
  • Explain how to manage a landscape to optimise forage production in a way that is sustainable, both economically and environmentally.
  • Explore factors that impact the quantity and quality of forage produced by a landscape and the effect on productivity of forage production.
  • Identify common problems that can arise in livestock and other animals as a result or the forage/fodder they eat.
  • Harvest and store forage plants for feeding animals after a period of storage.

 

CONTINUOUS GRAZING VS ROTATIONAL GRAZING

There are two main types of grazing systems used to manage forage and pastures. The type which is used depends a number of factors including resources and the producer goals.

‎Continuous Grazing 
‎A method of forage management where pastures are not sectioned by fences and livestock are free to graze the property for extended periods of time. This management technique is often favourable on farms with appropriate stocking density, beef cattle, dry cows, bred heifers, or when there is large forage availability with no desire to increase the livestock population. It is not suitable for livestock producing milk (dairy farms) as they often require consistent, high nutrient forages which is often not achievable on crops having little rest periods. This method is advantageous in that there is less labour, management, and expenditure on fencing or staff. Although there is less labour work required this does mean there is less control on overall grazing which can lead to inconsistencies in grazing intensities across the property. 
‎continuously grazed crops do take substantially longer to recover from overgrazing or unexpected scenarios such as drought. Often only specific areas and soils that can withstand high grazing pressure are also suitable for a continuous forage grazing system. 

‎Rotational Grazing  
‎Property is sectioned off into multiple paddocks where pastures are established, then exposed to livestock for feed for a set period. Once this time has elapsed the next paddock is exposed, and the previous paddock is sealed off to rest. This is a sustainable method which allows for easy stock movement, constant feed rotation while ensuring pastures are not destroyed, rather carbohydrate stores are renewed, growth is encourages and productivity is improved. It is a desirable system for most producers as they can cater it to their needs. This method is advantageous in that it allows for improved livestock productivity, milk production, manure distribution, vegetation recovery, increased farm net value, and potential reduction in machinery cost and supplementary feeding. This system is disadvantageous in that more fencing is required, paddocks must always allow livestock access to water, and more physical and time labour. To overcome this often cattle waterer is placed in fields or piping is installed to move water to areas where this is required although this can be quite costly. This system relies on consistent balance between production and forage use.