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Forage Species Selection

Finding the Right Fit for Your Farm

By Victoria Nameth AAg, Agri-Environmental Specialist, Moose Jaw, Regional Services Branch

April 2020


Deciding to establish a perennial forage stand requires an investment in both time and finances. To ensure this investment realizes its full potential, it is important to ensure we select the correct forage species for both the area we are seeding and for our specific goals of the stand. Therefore, there are a number of factors to look at.

The first factor to consider is the growing conditions for the area. This refers to the amount of precipitation received annually and, consequently, what soil zone the area falls into. Soil moisture increases across the soil zones in the province from brown to dark brown to black to grey wooded soils. The amount of moisture received determines which forage species are most suitable to seed in a specific area. This is due to the fact that some species are more drought tolerant than others. A species such as crested wheatgrass produces better in dry areas compared to a species such as timothy, which produces better in areas with higher moisture. Knowing the soil type on the area to be seeded is another determining factor of forage species selection. If your area has sandy soil, wheatgrass species grow well; if the soils are more saline, a saline tolerant blend of species may be the best option.

The second factor that affects forage species selection is the intended use of the forage stand and which management system will be used. Certain forage species are better suited for hay, while others are better for pasture. For instance, smooth bromegrass is better as a hay grass, whereas meadow bromegrass is better suited as a pasture grass. Consideration should be taken to select species that work best in the chosen management system. Is it a rotational or a continuous grazing pasture system? For a hay stand, how many cuts are being taken off? Certain species require longer rest periods, while others withstand multiple defoliations better.

The time of year a stand is being utilized will also determine the species selected. There are forage species suitable for early spring grazing, grazing throughout the season or for fall grazing. For instance, a species such as crested wheat grass, is better suited for early spring pasture whereas hybrid bromegrass can be used for stockpiled grazing in the fall.

The last factor to take into consideration is seed price. Knowing the forage seed price will help to ensure the project is economically feasible while still keeping the stand goals in mind.

The Farm Stewardship Program provides information and financial assistance for producers to implement beneficial management practices (BMPs) that enhance sustainability and resiliency in the sector. The Permanent Tame Forage BMP provides funding for the conversion of marginal annually cropped acres to perennial forage production. When applying to the Permanent Tame Forage BMP, a pre-approval application must be submitted prior to starting the project to confirm applicant eligibility, acres eligible for funding and forage blend eligibility. If you are considering a project, you are encouraged to reach out for program assistance. The Farm Stewardship Program and Permanent Tame Forage BMP are funded by the Canadian Agriculture Partnership or CAP. CAP is a five-year partnership between federal, provincial and territorial governments to invest in the agriculture sector.

For more information on forage species selection or for funding for seeding tame forage, contact the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377 or your local Agri-Environmental Specialist.

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