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Forage Crops

Forage Crops Overview

Forage crops are grown for livestock to graze on the plants and stems, to make hay, or to turn into silage. Forage crops are used to feed livestock over the winter because they are not able to graze when there is snow on the ground. Livestock can be fed cereal crops, but forage crops are more common as they are cheaper.

When snow is covering the ground, cows eat forage crops.

Alfalfa is one of the most commonly grown forage crops in Saskatchewan. Growing corn for a forage crop is also becoming more popular in Saskatchewan.

Alfalfa blooms purple flowers.

Many grain crops that have been damaged by weather can be used for livestock feed. These crops include barley, oats, triticale, millet, and ryegrass.

Industry Overview

The six types of forage crops grown in Saskatchewan include alfalfa, brome, tame hay, wild hay, and greenfeed.

Forage producers may harvest their crops to use as feed for livestock. Forage producers may also sell their forage crops privately, usually using social media sites to promote their bales and feed products. Once sold, the forage is transported to the farm or company that purchased it.

An illustrated green alfalfa crop with purple flowers.

Forage crops are typically used by a farmer as feed for their livestock.

History of Forage Crops

Forage crops have become important to the environment and agriculture. Forage crops are key in providing food to animals during the winter when there are limited options because of the snow-covered and frozen ground.

Alfalfa is a is used for grazing, hay, and silage.

Perennial forage crops have many benefits such as helping with soil erosion, lowering carbon dioxide, and providing a habitat for wildlife.

This tractor and baler are making bales as a way of preserving forage crops.

Grain crops affected by extreme weather conditions can be salvaged by using them for livestock feed, which stops the whole damaged crop from going to waste.

Crops that have been damaged by extreme weather including hail, drought, excessive moisture, tornadoes, or early snow can still be salvaged for livestock.

Growing Forage Crops

Some forage crops are annual crops, which means that they are planted every year. These plants include corn, barley, oats, triticale, millet, and ryegrass. Other forage crops are perennials, which means that they will come back each year without being planted every spring. These crops include alfalfa, clover, and some grasses.

Corn is becoming more popular in Saskatchewan as a forage crop.

Once the crop is at a good height, the livestock can graze on the field. Farmers switch their grazing fields to make sure that the crop will grow back after the grazing time (and avoid it being over-grazed). If the livestock does not graze on the field, the crop can be cut with a swather. If some forage crops, such as alfalfa are grown using irrigation (watering the field), you may be able to get three cuts off of a forage field.

A train is stopped in a small town next to a train station and two elevators.


Some forage crops are watered throughout the season using an irrigation system.

Once the forage crop is at a good height, the livestock can graze on the field.

Making hay requires the straw to be dry. Silage is made when the straw has more moisture in it. It is then stored in a silo and fed to the animals at a later time.

Making corn silage for a dairy farm in Osler, SK.

This tractor and baler are picking up hay swathes and making bales.

Forage Crops Nutrition

Forage crops are grown for livestock feed and are nutritious for animals by providing energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins.

Forage crops are grown for livestock feed.

This video shows the process for baling hay and stacking the bales on a trailer to be hauled off of the field.

Forage Crops Products

Forage crops provide livestock with food in the form of grazing, hay, or silage.

These sheep are eating from a bale of hay.