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Selecting Forage Species and Blends to Meet Your Forage Goals

There are many factors to take into consideration when selecting forage species. The following is a list of relevant questions you should always ask before choosing forage species.

(1) Intended use & management system

Is the intended use of the forage crop hay or pasture? If pasture, how intensively is the forage stand going to be grazed? Are you rotational, continuous or mob grazing? What is your comfort level in grazing alfalfa? If hay, how many cuts do you expect to take each year? See Table 1 (below) for forage crop use recommendations.

(2) Forage timing

At which months would you like your forage to be available?

(3) Environmental conditions

How much annual precipitation does your area receive? How harsh are your winters?

(4) Soil type

What is your soil type (clay, loam, sandy)? How well does your soil drain? Is there a problem with saline or alkaline soils? Is the organic matter content high or low? For information on variety and species characteristics with respect to environmental conditions and soil type see the detailed information by variety for Alfalfa, Bloat Free Legumes, Clover and Grasses.

Table 1 - Forage Crop Use Recommendations

HS - highly suitable;   S - suitable;   NR - not recommended

 Forage Species Continuous Grazing Rotational Grazing Hay & Haylage 
Alfalfa NR S HS 
Birdsfoot Trefoil NR HS HS 
Cicer Milkvetch HS HS
Red Clover NR S HS 
White Clover HS HS NR 
Alsike Clover NR S
Sweet Clover NR S
Bromegrass (smooth) NR S HS 
Bromegrass (meadow) S HS HS 
Timothy NR S HS 
Reed Canarygrass NR HS HS 
Orchardgrass HS HS HS 
Perennial Ryegrass HS HS HS 
Annual Ryegrass HS HS HS 
Tall Fescue NR S HS 
Meadow Fescue HS S HS 
Creeping Red Fescue HS HS NR