A well-managed pasture program often can be the most economical way to provide forage for ruminant animals. On many dairy farms where pasture makes up a significant portion of the forage program, feed costs are reduced by an estimated $.50 to $1.00 per day per cow during the grazing season. However, to optimize the production and use of pasture, as well as animal performance, careful planning and sound management are important. Knowing your animals, plants, and soils, and being able to respond to their needs is a skill that must be developed if pasture is going to make up a significant portion of your forage program.
Many possible pasture species can provide forage for grazing animals. Their use should be based on their suitability for the soil site, the animal enterprise, and the planned grazing management. Below is a brief description of some of these species. Table 1.8-6 is designed as a guide to help in planning for adequate pasture availability and forage quality for various animal enterprises over the whole grazing season.
For more information on varieties, establishment, and management of forage species, refer to the first part of this section.