What Is Greenchop?

Many farmers refer to greenchop feeding as soilage,  zero pasture, greenchop, or green feeding. All terms refer to a system of management in which pastures are harvested by machine rather than by the animals. The machine-harvested forage is then fed to the livestock in self-feeding wagons or conventional feed bunks in dry lot. Greenchop may be used to supplement a pasture grazing program, to completely replace grazing, or to supplement a dry lot feeding program.


  • Greater utilization of forage is possible than with rotation or continuous grazing.
  • Forage plants are allowed to reach optimum production before each chopping, which results in more milk or meat per acre than with grazing.
  • Losses from selective grazing, trampling, and from spoilage clue to droppings, are avoided. 
  • Greenchop enables the farmer to maintain a variety of forage plants difficult to maintain with grazing.
  • Less energy is expended by the animals in obtaining feed.
  • Fields may be larger, thus more efficient to harvest.
  • Fencing may be eliminated.
  • Damage to the soil through compaction is reduced.
  • Greenchop feeding tends to eliminate daily fluctuations in milk production common in grazing dairy herds. 


  • Additional equipment costs are involved when green feed is cut and brought to the animals since a forage harvester and hauling and feeding equipment are needed. 
  • Additional labor and power are required . Labor and equipment requirements for greenchop feeding are about triple those for grazing.
  • Hay and/or silage must be available at all times in case of mechanical breakdown.
  • Wet fields may make the daily task of cutting and hauling the green feed difficult.
  • It is doubtful if greenchop feeding is an economical practice for small dairy herds.
  • Sanitation problems are greatly increased when livestock are kept in dry lots throughout the summer.

Source: Philip Cole,  M.A. Alexander, Neal Shafer, Keith Zoellner and Don Clanton. 1958. Green Chop Feeding. Univ. Nebraska Extension Service, CC168.

Silage for Winter Feed

Since greenchop is the feeding of fresh forage, greenchop is only available during the forage growing season. To provide for winter feed, silage or hay must be provided.  For ensiling, the chopper used for green chop can be used to harvest forage for ensiling. 

Source: https://courses.ecampus.oregonstate.edu/ans312/four/greenchop_trans.htm

Web Resources



Nennich, Tamalee. 2013. Greenchop for lactating cow rations. Progressive Dairy. https://www.progressivedairy.com/topics/feed-nutrition/greenchop-for-lactating-cow-rations.

Orloff, Steve B. and Shannon C. Meuller. Harvesting, Curing, and Preserving Alfalfa. Chapter 14, Irrigated Alfalfa Management: https://alfalfa.ucdavis.edu/IrrigatedAlfalfa/pdfs/UCAlfalfa8300Curing_free.pdf.



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