Forage Management

Course CodeBAG226
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn how to manage forage to optimise livestock nutrition!

Forage is plant material consumed by animals as they browse or graze. It may occur naturally or be cultivated as crops.

Forage management is concerned primarily with controlling access to plants, also  with the establishment, regeneration, care and maintenance of forage plant populations.

To manage forage resources, you need to have a good understanding of both the plants growing in an area, and the animals that graze on those plants. It requires an appreciation of plant and animal ecology and the impacts which man can have on that ecology.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Scope and Nature of Forage Resources
    • Introduction
    • Terminology
    • Types of Forage
    • Types of Forage Lands
    • What different Animals Eat - Avian, Monogastric, Ruminants, Pseudo Ruminant
    • Managing Forage Ecosystems
    • Over grazing
    • Continuous vs Rotational Grazing
    • Ecosystem Health
    • Weed Types
    • Weed Populations
  2. Grassland Species and Ecosystems
    • Different Ways to Feed Animals
    • Different Fodder Systems
    • Different Fodder Plants - grasses, legumes, roots, wildflowers, forbs
  3. Fodder Trees & Shrubs
    • Definitions
    • Advantages & Disadvantages of Fodder Trees
    • Using Fodder Trees
    • Harvesting Foliage - pollarding, coppicing, browse blocks, leaf fall, silvopasture systems
    • Criteria for plant selection
    • Financial considerations
    • Considering Tree Species - Acacias, Bamboos, Beech, Black locust, Carob, Honey Locust, Pome Fruits and many more
  4. Forage Establishment
    • Natural area Grazing
    • Seeding
    • Soil - soil biome, rhizosphere, autotoxicity
    • Weed Management
    • Biodiversity -riparian zone, birds
  5. Forage Management
    • Regenerative Grazing Management
    • Improving Soil Quality
    • Strategies for Soil Improvement - crop rotation, tillage, zero tillage, fertility testing, soil compaction, soil cover
    • Fertiliser Management
    • NPK
    • Using Legumes
    • Irrigation Management
    • Animal Management
    • Animal Access Management - hedges, wire, barbed wire, electric fence, stone walls, banks/rises, gates, digital fencing tech
    • Controlled Burning
    • Pest and Disease Management
  6. Forage Quality and Use
    • Understanding Quality -palatability. intake, digestibility. nutrients, anti quality forage, animal performance
    • Composition and Analysis- moisture content, crude protein, fibre, energy, minerals, relative feed value etc
    • Cutting
  7. Forage (animal) related disorders
    • Recognising ill health
    • Seasonal and Conditional Disorders -bloat, acidosis, nitrate poisoning, prussic acid, grass tetany, phytoestrogens, etc
    • Overgrazing
    • Parasites
    • Worms
    • Species Related Disorders - fescue toxicosis, endophyte toxins, ryegrass staggers, anti quality components, phenolic compounds
    • Seasonal and Conditional Disorders -plant poisoning
    • Disorders Associated with Stored Forages
  8. Preserving Forage as Hay & Silage
    • Making Hay - curing, weather factors, etc
    • Mowing
    • Conditioning
    • Swathe Manipulation to Speed Drying
    • Hay Storage and Preservation
    • Phases in Silage Fermentation
    • Silage Storage
    • Silage Management


  • Discuss the nature and scope of forage plants eaten by animals, both in captivity and in the wild.
  • Identify the comparative characteristics of grasses and other low growing fodder plants from different natural and created habitats, including grasses, legumes and forbs.
  • Identify the comparative characteristics of grasses and other low growing fodder plants from different natural and created habitats including a range of trees and shrubs.
  • Explain how forage plants may be established effectively in a managed pasture.
  • Explain how to manage a landscape to optimise forage production in a way that is sustainable, both economically and environmentally.
  • Explore factors that impact the quantity and quality of forage produced by a landscape and the effect on productivity of forage production.
  • Identify common problems that can arise in livestock and other animals as a result or the forage/fodder they eat.
  • Harvest and store forage plants for feeding animals after a period of storage.


Fodder plants are mainly cultivated for animal feed which does include natural pastures regardless of if they are cultivated. These crops can be permanent or temporary. Permanent crops entail land use exclusively for 5 years or more for establishing a specific fodder whether it is natural herbaceous material or cultivated. Temporary crops are intensively farmed, cut, and rotated fodder plants which are typically either grasses, legumes, or root crops.

These types of fodder are fed as either:

  • Fresh, green feed which may be harvested and given to animals or have animals graze directly and rotate on cultivated pastures.  
  • Hay where the fodder is stored, dried and then given to the animals
  • Converted to silage where it is compacted to airtight, barrel shaped wraps which allow for fermentation without spoilage (usually in preparation for winter months)
  • Part of compound feeds

Grasses are the dominant vegetation on much of worlds rangelands. They are classified as temporary crops grown intensively with multiple cropping per year as fodder. They are harvested green and contain crude fibres, protein and some minerals. E.g. Bluegrass, Napier, Sudan grass, Timothy grass.

Legumes are a temporary crop and unique subgroup of forbs having narrow range of adaptation than grasses do. Many legumes have superior forage quality, most fix atmospheric nitrogen and often seeded into and managed as important component of pasture and hayfields. Widely grown legumes used to feed animals include are clovers and trefoils.  With regards to animal nutrition, legumes are high in crude protein and have high intake and digestibility by ruminants than grasses. Some common types of legumes cultivated include alfalfa, red clover, white clover, and annual lespedeza. 

Root vegetables are a temporary crop and are easily digestible for animals as they have a low fibre content and contain high levels of starch and sugar. Types of root crops that most grown include carrots, beetroot, potatoes, and yellow beet. The crops are relatively easy to grow however do need to be cut up using a root cutter, or similar tool, to prevent animals from choking on the large vegetables produced. Root fodder crops are more common on small scale farms.

Wildflower pastures are a permanent pasture naturally occurring worldwide. They create an ideal habitat for an intricate ecosystem encouraging life of birds, reptiles, invertebrates, amphibians, and mammals. These pastures are commonly used harmoniously for grazing with cattle where overgrazing and high stocking densities are especially avoided to preserve these ecosystems. 



After this course you will have enhanced your capacity to work in a wide range of agricultural jobs, including:

  • Farm Manager
  • Farm Hand
  • Agricultural Consultant
  • Farm Supplies Manager/ Pasture Seed Company Officer
  • Agricultural Researcher, Writer, Broadcaster, Teachers
  • Produce or Land Agent





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