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Competency Area 7: Forage Harvesting Factors

PO 30. Understand how frequency of harvest is related to forage yield, quality, food reserves, and stand longevity.

Food Reserves Alfalfa and red clover build up reserves during each regrowth period and then deplete reserves after harvest for regrowth (see also PO 10). Birdsfoot trefoil root reserves remain low throughout much of the growing season. Food reserves in perennial grasses follow a similar pattern to alfalfa. Storage may be in rhizomes (bluegrass, bromegrass, and reed canarygrass), stem bases (timothy), or lower internodes called “corms” (orchardgrass). In general, frequent harvest (4-5 cuts/growing season): lowers food reserves, shortens stand life, increases forage quality, and may decrease total seasonal yield. Some species (such as timothy and bromegrass) are more sensitive than others to frequent harvest. See also PO 28 on alfalfa winter injury assessment.

Grazing Management Summary Graze early in the spring, harvest and store forage from fields not grazed early. Rotationally graze with a high enough animal density to prevent selective grazing. The length of the rest period will depend on height of the forage after the last grazing and the growth rate of the forage. Forage growth rate will depend on the species, the season of the year, the amount of rainfall received, and the fertility program.

Rotational Stocking & Planning procedures

  • Estimate the total forage requirement.
  • Estimate the forage supply.
  • Determine the paddock residency period.
  • Calculate the paddock size.
  • Determine the number of paddocks required.
  • Estimate the number of acres required.