Producers should begin to take forage inventory

With the fall and winter months approaching, it is a good time for producers to begin taking forage inventory.

Early fall is an ideal time to take inventory of available forage. (Jenny Schlecht / Agweek)

With the fall and winter months approaching, producers should begin to take an overall forage inventory for their livestock.

"Hopefully people are taking their inventory now so they can buy more forage or get rid of livestock ahead of time. If we are doing inventory now and purchasing forage now, prices will be a lot lower than if you wait. This year is a little more important because we know that folks are likely going to be short on forage following less than ideal conditions last year which caused some producers to use some of their inventory up,” said Miranda Meehan, North Dakota State University Extension livestock environmental stewardship specialist.

The harsh frost the region received in the spring has resulted in an overall lower production of forage and delayed the growth in pastures and grass as well. In addition, the drought that was present in the western and central part of the state took its toll on forage production also.

“We have gotten reports of high nitrates in some areas due to the drought and a lower production percentage too,” Meehan said.

When taking inventory, it is important to think about certain factors, such as your potential feeding needs, environmental factors, species and the stage of production.


It is also important to remember forage can be a variety of sources, not just hay.

“Make sure to not only limit yourself to just hay, make sure you are looking at all of your forage resources, such as silage or even cover crops,” Meehan said.

By utilizing cover crops, this gives producers a chance to extend their grazing period and reduce the amount of stored forage they might need or use in the upcoming months.

When accessing forage, quality is important. Meehan recommends sending your forage out for testing to see if the forage meets your livestock’s nutritional needs. This will also allow you to make adjustments, such as supplementing protein if needed to meet those requirements.

Another important factor to consider is how you distribute the forage itself. By distributing your forage a curtain way, producers could lower their wasted forage drastically.

“If we look at how that forage is fed, we can possibly reduce how much is lost and we can stretch how far that inventory will go. For comparison, a bunk of total mixed ration will have about a 5% loss, whereas ground feeding could have a loss up to 45%,” Meehan said.

Emily grew up on a small grains and goat farm in southern Ohio. After graduating from The Ohio State University, she moved to Fargo, North Dakota to pursue a career in ag journalism with Agweek. She enjoys reporting on livestock and local agricultural businesses.
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