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Forage Quality can be defined as the extent to which a forage has the potential to produce a desired animal response.

factors that influence forage quality include the following....

Palatability. Will the cattle eat what your producing?   Cattle select one forage over another based on smell, feel, and taste.   Palatability may therefore be influenced by texture, amount of leaves, fertilizer quantity from last season, dung and urine patches, moisture content, leaf hoppers (pest infestation), or compounds that cause a forage to taste sweet, sour, or salty.    High-quality forages are generally highly palatable.

Intake. How much will they eat?   Animals must consume adequate quantities of forage to perform well.    Typically, the higher the palatability and forage quality, the higher the intake.
Digestibility. How much of the forage will be digested?  Digestibility varies greatly.  Immature, leafy plant tissues may be 80% - 90% digested, while less than 50% of mature, stemmy material is digested.
Nutrient Content. Living forage plants usually contain 70 - 90% water.   To standardize analyses, forage yield and nutrient content are usually expressed on a dry matter basis.  Forage dry matter can be divided into two main categories: (1) cell contents & (2) structural components.  I'm not a forage scientist so don't expect to much of a term definition.  
Animal Performance is the ultimate test of forage quality, especially when forages are fed alone.  How much cattle will comsume, and any anti-quality factors like old alfalfa, bleached hay or moldy hay play a big role in animal intake which directly effects animal performance.

How muich is corn silage worth?  That can be easily replied to with multiple questions !?! 
1. Who's harvesting it?
2. How far is it being hauled?
3. What's the moisture content?
4. What is the local supply/demand.
Given the variable conditions of this years (2003) crop, buyers and sellers of corn silage really need to consider all of these factors.
For a great silage pricing spreadsheet, go to:

Allow Alfalfa To Freeze Hard Before Grazing
Waiting to graze alfalfa until well after a hard freeze is a good, safe management practice, according to Rick Rasby, professor of animal science, University of Nebraska.

Alfalfa reacts two ways to a hard freeze, he says. One, nitrate levels can increase, but rarely to hazardous levels. Two, freezing can make alfalfa more likely to cause bloat for a few days after the frost. Several days later, after plants begin to wilt or grow again, alfalfa becomes less likely to cause bloat.

"Fall grazing of alfalfa is not without problems, though," adds Rasby. "Bloat always must be a concern, but alfalfa that has been frosted and started to dry down has fewer tendencies to cause bloat than summer alfalfa." To protect your livestock from bloat, fill them with hay before turning them on to alfalfa. Also, maintain access to dry hay or corn stalks while grazing alfalfa to help reduce bloat.

Finally, bloat protectants like poloxalene can be fed as blocks or mixed with grain. This can be an expensive supplement, but it works well when animals eat a uniform amount each day. Also be careful not to damage your alfalfa stand.

"Only graze when fields are dry and firm," concludes Rasby. "Reserve a small sacrifice area to graze and for feeding when soils are wet to avoid damaging the entire field."

Tips for Profit
Cone Feeders Make For Less Hay Waste
The design of large, round-bale feeders affects how well hay is utilized, and cow behavior, too, Michigan State University(MSU) researchers found.

Beef cows in their study were allotted to one of eight pens with four feeder designs: cone, ring, trailer or cradle. All feeder types provided about 14.5 in. of linear feeder space/animal. Alfalfa and orchardgrass round bales were weighed and sampled before feeding.

Hay that fell onto the concrete surrounding the feeder was considered waste and was collected and sampled daily. At the end of a seven-day period, each feeder type was assigned to a different pen for a second, seven-day period.

  • Dry matter hay waste was 3.5%, 6.1%, 11.4% and 14.6% for the cone, ring, trailer and cradle feeders, respectively.
  • Calculated dry matter intake of hay ranged from 1.8% to 2% of body weight and did not differ by feeder type.
  • Percentage of organic matter, neutral detergent fiber, acid detergent fiber and crude protein were all lower, and acid detergent lignin was higher, in the recovered waste compared to the hay fed.
  • Cows feeding from the cradle feeder had nearly three times the agonistic interactions (behavior resulting in displacement of another cow from the feeder) and four times the frequency of entrances compared to cows feeding from the other feeder types.
  • Feed losses were positively correlated with agonistic interactions, frequency of regular and irregular entrances and feeder occupancy rate.
  • Use of the ring feeder resulted in nearly twice the amount of waste compared to the cone feeder, whereas the trailer and cradle feeders resulted in four times the waste per animal compared to the cone design.
  • Hay waste, as a percentage of hay disappearance, was less for the cone and ring feeders compared to the trailer and cradle feeders.
  • Cattle eating from the cone and ring feeders were able to more closely mimic a grazing position than those eating from the trailer and cradle feeder.
  • Feed losses were similar for bales stored inside (12.4%) or covered with plastic outside (13.4 to 14.5%), but higher for bales stored uncovered outside (24.7%).
  • Slanted bar designs encourage animals to keep their heads in the feeder opening by providing some constraint.
-- Daniel Buskirk, MSU Department of Animal Science,

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