Explore the basics when it comes to forages for beef cattle.


Forages for beef cattle are an important part of your operation’s efforts. They are the main source of food for your herd, and the least expensive option. An article from the South Florida Beef-Forage Program explains forages, and we shared the basics on forages. Find a summary of the article’s information concerning what affects forage quality below.

Factors the Affect Forage Quality


Growing Conditions:

  • “In the spring, temperatures begin to get warmer, day length increases, and fertilizer is typically applied to Bahia grass pastures, which all result in forage growth and increased forage quantity.”
  • “In summer, rainfall increases, and temperature and day length are greatest of any time of year which leads to rapid forage growth. Rapid forage growth also leads to increasing plant maturity which decreases nutritive value.”
  • “In fall and winter, temperature, day length, and rainfall decrease reducing forage growth, and the forage plant puts nutrients into the roots preparing for regrowth in the spring. This decreases the nutritive value of the forage available to the cow.”

Plant Maturity:

  • “Young forage is also of very high nutritive value, but there is usually not a large quantity available for the cow. Thus, the cow may not be able to consume enough of the high-quality forage to meet nutrient requireme”
  • “As forage plants mature, protein content decreases, and fiber content increases, but digestibility of fiber decreases due to increased lignification of the fiber. Lignin is a molecule that is virtually indigestible.”
  • “As the forage plant matures, fiber content increases and fiber digestibility decreases, which limits the amount of forage the cow can consume. The more mature forage has lower nutritive value and the cow cannot consume as much of the low-quality forage compounding the effect on nutrient intake.”
  • “More mature forage plants have decreased protein content. Protein intake is not only important for the cow, it is important for the rumen microbes to effectively digest forage fiber. Typically, forage protein content below 7% will decrease forage intake by the cow because the microbes are lacking protein necessary to digest forage fiber. Supplemental protein will be necessary to maximize forage intake and digestion. At 7% protein and above, forage fiber digestibility and forage intake are maximized.”

Solutions, according to the article, are managing grazing/harvesting and forage testing: “When the forage plant is grazed by the cow or mowed for hay, it causes the plant to put on new growth that has high nutritive value. Grazing or mowing more frequently will increase the nutritive value of the available forage to be harvested by the cow or for hay in the next grazing cycle or cutting. However, there is an optimum. Grazing or mowing too frequently will reduce plant growth and forage yield.”

Griffin Fertilizer is committed to helping both growers and ranchers make sound agronomic and economic decisions in order to maximize the health of their grove and pasture. As a full-service custom dry & liquid fertilizer blender and crop protection product distributor, we will continue our mission to further advance Florida agriculture. For questions or concerns about your farm or pasture, contact us and one of our team will be in touch.