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Management-Intensive Grazing: Forage Allotment

Supplementing the Grazing Animal

Many of our most common forage species are just not quite high enough in quality to meet the nutritional demands of our most productive animal classes (e.g., lactating dairy cows, finisher cattle, replacement heifers, etc. ). As a result, there is often a need to supplement these forages with energy- and/or protein-dense feedstocks.

This supplementation can be quite expensive, so it is important to provide only enough supplement to make up for what the forage does not supply. This is done by developing a ration. Of course, this requires determining how much nutrition is provided by the available forage. Stock values for the quality of different forages have been published in numerous tables, but these are no substitute for analyzing a sample from the available forage. (Directions for sampling pasture quality can be found here.) Once you have obtained a representative sample of the available forage in your pastures, visit with your local County Extension Agent and have them help you submit the sample to the University of Georgia's Feed and Environmental Water Lab in Athens. If you have a list of available supplements (preferably with their nutritional values), you can provide it with your submission and ask for recipe for a balanced ration.

More specific information about the nutritional needs of individual animal classes can be found in the National Research Council's series on the nutrient requirements of various animal types. The most recent revisions for beef cattle, dairy cattle, horses, small ruminants, and other animals are available here for reading online or purchase.