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Forage Types

Hay, silage and pasture is your business, and it's our focus. Take your operation to the next level with the help of our comprehensive and practical information, education and technology about various forage types.

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Silage is the feedstuff produced by the fermentation of a crop, forage or agricultural byproduct of generally greater than 50 percent moisture content. Ensiling is the name given to the process, and the container (if used) is called a silo.

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Forages have always been an important source of nutrients to the dairy cow. Producing high-quality forages can increase dairy efficiency and help reduce the feed costs associated with purchasing added supplements and concentrates. In addition, with the constant influx of new technology and innovations, forage management has become more sophisticated and provides a greater economic significance to dairy herd profitability.

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Estimates of the percentage of corn harvested for silage in the U.S. range from 7 to 10 percent, depending on the year and who’s doing the estimating. A small portion of this acreage was planted for grain but harvested for silage because of low corn prices, too much rain, not enough rain, bugs, weeds or disease. Therefore, the true market for seed corn for silage is 7 percent of total seed corn sales or perhaps a bit less.

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The feeds selected for use in the ration have an influence on overall dietary phosphorus concentration. If no inorganic mineral phosphorus source is added, the only way to change phosphorus content is to change the amounts and proportions of feeds used. Even when all inorganic phosphorus has been removed, rations are still sometimes over the recommended amounts.

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Rainfall or runoff from melting snow can impact a feeder’s ability to correctly feed dairy cattle. Added water from precipitation or runoff decreases silage dry matter (DM) content. In these situations, more silage must be fed to meet an animal’s nutrient requirements for production. Failure to adjust feeding rate has potential economic consequences, especially when high levels of silage are fed and substantial amounts of water has been added. First, dry matter intake (DMI) decreases because the ration includes more water and less actual feed nutrients. Second, average milk production decreases because of reduced energy intake from the ration. Third, milk fat may decrease because of altering the forage-to-concentrate ratio (less fiber from forage and proportionately more concentrate in diet).

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Forages are an integral component of the ration for dairy cows. The quality and consistency of the forage can have a significant impact on the production, profitability and health of the dairy cow. Forage quality can be extremely variable, based on hybrid or variety, area where grown, soil conditions, weather, harvesting, storage and feedout conditions.

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