Hay and Forage Management

There are several types of animal feed available to livestock managers. The type that the manager chooses will depend on the kind of livestock, the local climate, and the available resources. Feed can be categorized into two general types: forage and fodder. Forage feeding means livestock graze on pasture lands. Fodder is made of any plant matter that is cut, prepared, and given to livestock as part of a ration.


Types of fodder include hay and silage. Hay is cut and dried grass, usually stored in bales. Hay is commonly made from any mixture of alfalfa, clover, Bermuda grass, orchardgrass, oat, fescue, and other grass species.

Silage is made by chopping and preserving a green crop such as corn, sorghum, or grass. The chopped forage crop is then tightly packed in an environment with limited oxygen, such as a covered silo or in plastic bale wrappers. Excess exposure to oxygen will cause the silage to spoil. In the anaerobic atmosphere, the crop will begin to ferment, resulting in feed with high moisture content. This process is commonly called ensilage. Most crops that are used for hay can also be used for silage. Crops that will produce high-energy silage include corn and grain sorghum, while grasses will produce low-energy silage.

Haylage, also known as baleage, is a term for silage made specifically from grass crops. Fermented feedstuffs can be stored in silos, towers, clamps, and wrapped bales. However, storage methods that allow the edges of the silage to be exposed to open air may experience some waste due to spoilage. Many farmers prepare their own hay and silage, but it can also be purchased from dedicated feed producers. Silage is often more cost-effective than hay, and it has the added benefit of not being damaged by rainfall.

Varied Feed Formulation

Most livestock managers provide varied feed mix to their livestock. This could include grazing, hay, and silage of various crops. For example, a large part of the typical dairy cattle diet is comprised of silage, pasture grazing, and protein and carbohydrate concentrate. Beef cattle usually have a similar diet of forages, pasture feeding, and hay.