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Pricing and using alternative forages

Your farming operation may benefit from alternative forage supplies if corn silage harvest is approaching and you’re anticipating reduced forage production due to late planting or prevented planting.

Forage inventory and feeding budget

Livestock farms should have a plan to ensure forage stockpiles provide a continuous supply for a full year. As harvest nears, having an accurate representation of forage inventory is an essential first step in planning out feeding year needs.

The next step is to build a feed and forage needs budget to estimate your farm’s needs. After determining a reasonable estimate, calculate any additional forage needs to quickly identify and secure potential sources of forage or feed alternatives.

For dairy, allocate the highest quality forage for the milking herd and youngest heifers. For beef cows, you may choose to save some for calving time.

Long green grass
Alternative high-quality grass forage

Alternative forage options


Forage quality

With all these alternative forages, it’s a good investment to get digestibility rates and estimations of neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and the undigested NDF. There’s potential to overestimate forage energy content if the forage’s NDF digests more slowly than we estimate.

Table 1: Summary of forage quality

Quality Corn silage Sweet corn silage Small grain forage Brown midrib (BMR) sorghum Corn stover
Crude protein (CP) 8.50% 9% 16% 14% 5%
Neutral detergent fiber (NDF) 45% 55% 50% 55% 65%
Total digestible nutrients (TDN) 70% 67% 65% 70% 45%

Jim Paulson, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2018

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