What makes a grass, legume, or forb a grazing mainstay or just a miscellaneous forage? The answer has not changed over the years but the species have. Turnips have been used as forage for over 600 years. Lupines are mentioned often in very early literature. But their roles have changed as more knowledge about specific species is learned.

The main species used for pasture grazing are those that can provide high-yielding, high-quality forage for a major portion of the year. Many grass/legume mixtures can provide pasture for grazing from late April to early September. Some cool-season grasses can provide a growth spurt in late October. Forage managers can usually rely on good pastures for grazing for quite a while and even reap hay or silage from those same pastures when their production reaches a peak. Miscellaneous forages are used to provide grazing during parts the remaining months. Several miscellaneous forages (kale, swedes, rape, sugar beets, fodder beets, cabbages) provide grazing from September through November. Some provide grazing from July to October or November (peas, vetches, sweetclover). Some (oats, barley, wheat) can be used as pastures from June-August when some grasses are less productive. These crops, sometimes called second or secondary croppings, can be planted in summer when land is available after summer harvesting. So land resources are well used. Extending grazing into the late fall will continue to spread manure and recycle fertilizers. Some producers feel their land could be more productive if planted with a cover crop and nitrogen added back to the soil during this time. But some of the miscellaneous crops are legumes and can accomplish this (vetches, peas, sweetclover).

How does the quality of miscellaneous forages compare with fresh pastures or stored feed? Some miscellaneous forages produce grazable top and root growth. But all root and tuber crops are watery and low in dry matter (8-9%). This is less than half the dry matter percentage of corn silage. But the dry matter they contain is low in fiber and highly digestible and so is relatively high in net energy per pound. Tuber and root crops are mainly carbohydrates and 12-30% protein .

Production costs for miscellaneous crops is often lower than alternatives. They are planted during after labor-intensive harvests and grazed by the animals. The grazing season for these secondary crops is short and they must be utilized when ready. Handling and storage are difficult because of the high water content (turnips, rape, cabbage). Frost can cause defoliation of some miscellaneous forages (kale). Some can be ensiled or used for hay (vetch, cereal grains, soybeans, lupines, peas).

How do livestock interact with miscellaneous forages compared with mainstsay forages? Livestock must learn to graze turnips which can be done by using strip grazing. Dislodging the roots (turnips) can be difficult in hard ground, particularly for lambs.

This objective looked at some of the comparisons between miscellaneous forages and pastures, but is unwise to compare miscellaneous forages side-by-side with pastures because they each fill a different role, period of utilization, and dynamics of the forage-livestock system. Miscellaneous forages can be an important addition to the grazing season and influence the need for stored feed when used wisely.