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