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How to Establish Forage

Establishing and growing a good field of forage might be essential for your farm. Whether it’s your first time seeding or 100th time, it’s always good to brush up on your knowledge and go over your forage planting method.f

Step 1: Pick a Location

To start with, you need to pick a suitable location. This will of course depend on your reason for planting forage.

If your forage is intended for grazing livestock you’ll need to consider a couple things: firstly, is it an easy place to transport your livestock to? You also need to consider what facilities are available nearby. Does it have a steady supply of water? Will you need to run an electric fence around the plot of land?

If you are planting forage for harvest, you want to make sure that it’s an area that’s not prone to invasive, difficult weeds. You should also plan how you will transport your harvest to storage from the field too; don’t leave it until the last step.

Step 2: Pick a Forage Seed

Next you need to pick a forage seed to sow. There are 2 main considerations in this step: the land and the purpose.

Firstly, the seed you pick needs to be able to grow on the patch of land you have chosen. There’s no point planting a forage that is particularly susceptible to root rot on a patch of land that’s notoriously damp, for example.

You also need to consider the purpose of the forage. Grass type forages might be perfect for your soil type and land location, but if you’re planting forage for your livestock to graze on, you might want to be selective of the varieties you plant. Pick a forage that the livestock will enjoy and improve their health.

Step 3: Plan the Seeding

Before you even consider getting the seeder out to plant those seeds, you need to plan carefully.

Start by considering the timing. You need the forage to be ready for a particular time of year so plan accordingly. Also take into consideration the weather at this time of year – don’t ruin your forage from poor planning!

Furthermore, just because you may not be harvesting the forage directly to sell doesn’t mean you can skip on the important stuff. Planting at the correct depth, the right row spacing and fertilizer application still needs to be carefully planned before you begin.

Step 4: Stop Weeds

Finally, your last step is to stop weeds. This comes in 3 stages; prevention, maintenance and monitoring.

Prevention. You might find it best to apply fertilisers before you sow the seeds, or applying at the same time. You don’t want your herbicides to be lingering when your livestock come to graze so get the timing on this perfectly.

Maintenance. A more organic way to prevent weeds would be to use a cover crop amongst your forage crop. Find crops that will grow together without competition for the same nutrients. Block up any space that weeds might grow using cover crops. This is best for forage you will harvest rather than livestock grazing.

Monitoring. The job doesn’t just end once you’ve seeded and sprayed. You will need to keep an eye on the field as time goes by. Weeds might crop up, flooding might happen or you may have a much lower germination rate than expected. Regardless of how far away your forage field is from your main farm, it still needs to be checked on.

Once you’ve got the hang of establishing a health field of forage, you can do the same year after year! Using a crop rotation scheme and trying different forages across your farm land will renew your fields and hopefully see your farm reaping the benefits. Let us know how you’re doing in the comments below.

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