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Which Pastures Should I Plant For My Cows?

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The quantity and quality of feed available to dairy cattle can be improved substantially by establishing improved forages such as fodder trees, forage grasses and legumes.

The feeding value of cultivated forage is far superior to that of native pastures. Improved pastures comprise sown pasture grasses, forage legumes and multipurpose fodder trees and shrubs.

Well-managed pastures will:

Produce more forage and more livestock products than poorly managed pastures.

Improve the condition of any ecologically-sensitive areas.

Reduce runoff and improve rainfall infiltration.

Reduce the delivery of contaminants such as eroded soil, manure, and pathogens to surface waters, while contributing to proper nutrient management and;

Improve habitat for game birds and other wildlife species.

Forage quality, defined as “the extent to which a forage has the potential to produce a desired animal response” is a major determinant of type of pasture to establish and its overall effect on livestock performance.

The quality of forage affects forage intake, though intake can also be compounded by other factors such as the amount of forage available, the animal’s intake capacity, performance level, health, genotype and social hierarchy.

Environmental factors also affect forage intake, including prevailing temperature and humidity.

Management factors — such as supplementation, feeding frequency, and availability of water and feed also affect forage intake.

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