There are many factors that should be considered in growing a forage crop that directly improve quality. These basic factors are;

  • Plant species and mixtures and cultivars
    • Legumes vs. grasses / mixtures
      • Legumes are higher in protein and have faster rates of fiber digestion.
    • Cool-season vs. warm season
      • Cool season grasses are more digestible  due to anatomy differences.
    • Breeding can improve quality and maturity differences can be large.
  • Temperature
    • Plants grown at high temperatures produce lower quality forage due to lignification.
  • Maturity stage
    • Maturity stage at harvest is the most important factor determining forage quality of any species.
    • Forage quality declines as maturity advances.
(Relative Quality vs Growth Stage Graph to be added)
  • Leaf-to-stem ratio
    • Leaves are higher in quality than stems.
(Leaf Percentage vs Days Graph to be added)
  • Fertilization
    • Most important for grasses; N fertilization increases yield and crude protein (%N*6.25).
  • Harvesting and storage techniques
    • Field losses include rain damage, leaf loss, and plant respiration.
    •  Storage losses to uncovered bales can be 40%.
  • Foreign material
    • Dirt, weeds, wire and straw are all considered foreign material.
    • High quality hay will have little to no foreign material.
  • Antiquality factors
    • High quality forages should be free of antiquality factors that discourage animal consumption.
    • Can be chemical (toxins) or physical (thorns).