Forage Crops - Agriculture Form 3 Notes

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  • These are plants which either grow naturally or are cultivated by man to be used for feeding livestock.
  • The term forage crops include pasture and fodder crops.
  • Fodder crops are purposely grown for feeding livestock.
  • They are cut or uprooted when ready


  • Pasture is a ground cover of grass or a mixture of grass and legumes grazed directly or cut and fed to livestock.

Classification of Pastures

According to Type of Stand.

  • Either pure or
  • Mixed stands.

According to Ecological Zones .

  • Low altitude,
  • Medium altitude,
  • High altitude pastures

According to the Establishment .

  • Natural
  • Artificial pastures.


Examples of Grasses

  • Napier,
  • Rhodes,
  • Setaria,
  • Molasses,
  • Congo signal,
  • kikuyu,
  • star,
  • Guatemala,
  • Sudan

Examples of Legumes;

  • Lucern,
  • Clover,
  • Desmodium,
  • Glycine,
  • Stylo,
  • Centrio,

Pasture Establishment

Seedbed Preparation

  • This involves clearing the land, primary and secondary cultivation to a fine tilth because the seeds are small.
  • This is done during the dry season.

Selection of planting materials

  • Select seeds of high germination percentage,
  • Free from impurities or buy certified seeds.
  • If vegetative materials are used, select from high yielding, vigorous-growing and healthy plants.

Treatment of legume seeds

  • Legume seeds are inoculated with the correct strain of bacteria which fix nitrogen for the crop.


  • This is done at the beginning of the rains
  • Methods of sowing are;
    • Direct sowing,
    • Under sowing,
    • Over-sowing


  • This is introduction of a pasture legume in an existing grass pasture.


  • The establishment of a pasture in an already existing crop which acts as a cover crop.

Seeds rate depend on;

  • purity of seeds,
  • Pasture species
  • Whether pure or mixed stand.

- Apply phosphatic fertilizer when planting and later top-dress with nitrogenous fertilizer.

Pasture Management

  • Re-seeding or gapping; 
    • Re-seeding is done if the grass is completely denudated.
    • But if partially, gapping can be done
  • Control of weeds by slashing, uprooting and mowing
  • Fertilization of pastures-done by use of manures and nitrogenous fertilizer.
  • Topping;This is the removal of stemmy fibrous material left behind after grazing.It allows new growth after the rains
  • Control of pests-done by trapping of moles, use of pesticides and biological means.

Pasture Utilization

  • Pastures should be utilized at maturity when nutritive value is high.
  • It is utilized through the following methods:
    • Direct grazing - this can be done through rotational grazing or herding.
    • Zero grazing - this is where the pasture is cut and fed to the animals in the stalls.

Common Fodder Crops

Edible Cana

  • Altitude: 1500 - 2000m above sea level.
  • Establishment: Young tubers or bulbs are used.
  • Spacing: 1m x 1m.
  • Management: Does well with application of farmyard manure and requires fertile land.
  • Utilization: Tops and tubers are sliced and fed to livestock.
  • Conservation: Bulbs or tubers are sliced and stored.

Napier Grass

  • Altitude: 0 - 2000m above sea level.
  • Establishment: Stem cuttings or splits.
  • Spacing: 1 m x 50cm.


  • Apply phosphatic fertilizers during planting time.
  • Top-dress with nitrogenous fertilizers in split application.
  • Clean weeding when young.
  • Cut when 6-8 weeks or 1m-1.5m in height.
  • Utilization: Cut stem is fed to livestock.
  • Conservation: Ensiled when in plenty.

Types of Napier Grass:

  • Bana grass (broad-leaved with hairy leaves)
  • Clone (thin-stemmed and hairless)
  • French Cameroon (thin-stemmed and not hairy).
  • Pakistan hybrid (thin-leaved with hairy leaves).
    • Used for silage making.


  • Altitude: 1500 - 2500m above sea level.
  • Soil: Deep red soil are ideal.
  • Establishment: Inoculated seeds are planted 30-50cm apart in the rows.
  • Management: Weeding and fertilizer application.
  • Utilization: Cut wilted and fed to livestock before flowering stage.
  • Conservation: Hay, silage, dried materials such as cubes or pencils.


  • Is a root crop.
  • Root is utilized as livestock feed.
  • Ripe ones are used.


  • Leaves used as livestock feeds.

Guatemala Grass

  • Leaves and stems used as livestock feed.

Sorghum Grass

  • Two varieties:
    • Columbus gras
    • Sudan gras
  • Established from seeds which are drilled or broadcasted.
  • Columbus grass should be dried before feeding to animals to avoid hydrocyanic and prussic acid poisoning.

Desmodium (Desmodium spp)

  • Two varieties ;
    • Green leaf
    • Silver leaf.
  • Established from seeds on thoroughly prepared clean beds.
  • Can also be inter-planted with Napier grass.
  • Cut and wilted before feeding to livestock.

Agroforestry Trees Used as Fodder Crops

  • Leucaenia
  • Calliandra
  • Atriplex
  • Sesba


Forage Conservation

  • Forage can be conserved as;
    • Hay,
    • Silage
    • Standing forage.

Importance of Forage Conservation:

  • To reserve excess forage for use during time of shortag
  • To avoid unnecessary wastage of f
  • Conserved forage can be sold.
  • To have sustained supply of feed for livestock throughout the year.

Methods of Forage Conservation

Hay Making

  • This is the dehydration of green pastures to a moisture content of 16-20 per cent:

Steps in hay making:

  • Cut the crop when the sun is shining.
  • Dry the materials for 1-2 days.
  • Windrow the dry material to allow for further drying.
  • Bale the dry materials for storage.
  • Store under shed or shelter.

Factors Determining Quality of Hay

  • Stage of growth at which forage is harvested.
  • Leaf content of the forage material.
  • Method of handling and curing the hay.
  • Form in which material is fed to livestock.
  • Species of forage used.
  • Amount of foreign materials in forage.

Silage Making

  • This is a feed produced by conserving forage in succulent form through the process of fermentation by anaerobic bacteria.

Steps in silage making:

  • Cut the crop and transport it to the silo,
  • Material with a high moisture content is wilted in the sun for 4-48 hours before ensiling .
  • Material is chopped to reasonable size pieces before filling in the silo.
  • Spread the chopped material evenly.
  • Check temperature if below 31°C, needs further filling; if above 31 °C compaction is necessary.
  • Filling should be complete by the end of the third or fourth day.
  • The silo is covered with 15cm of straw, sawdust then 15cm of soil to make it air and water tight.
  • A trench is dug round the silo to keep off surface water.


 Factors Affecting the Qualitof Silage

  • Maturity stage of the crop when cut.
  • Type of crop.
  • Moisture content of the material
  • Additives such as molasses.
  • Degree of compaction.
  • Size of pieces ensiled.
  • Amount of foreign materials included in the silage.
  • Amount of leaf of the ensiled material.

Standing Forage

  • This is forage left in the field to be used during the dry season.
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