forage and pasture management

pasture and forage management. In the establishment of a pasture, it is very important to know the quality of pasture or forage crop to plant in a specified area of land.

In doing this, it is very important to understand certain principles and formulas required to ensure an adequate plant population in an area of farmland


A pasture is a piece of land on which forage crops or grasses or a mixture of grasses and legumes grow. In other words, it refers to an area of land covered with plants which are usually grasses and legumes that are grazed or fed on by livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats.

What are forages?

Forage crops on the hand are plants cultivated for their vegetative portions and used in fresh or preserved forms for feeding livestock.    

Forage crops and pastures provide the bedrock of sustainable agriculture. there are also lots of differences between forages and pastures.

don\’t worry it is not very confusing but let us look at the major differences between pasture range land and forage.

  what is pasture range land? a pasture or pasture land is Defined as the edible parts of plants, other than separated grain, that provide feed for grazing animals or that can be harvested for feeding

Uses of forage crops:

Forage crops have the following uses:
(i) Livestock feed: Forage crops are usually used for feeding livestock like cattle, sheep and goat. Hay, straw and silage are prepared from forage crops.

(ii) As cover crops: Most forage crops, especially leguminous plants, serve as cover crops which add nutrients to soil and control weed growth.

(iii) Conservation of Soil Moisture: Most forage crops, especially leguminous plants, help to conserve soil moisture by preventing evaporation.
(iv) Prevention of Erosion: Some forage crops, especially leguminous plants, help to prevent water and wind erosion.
(v) As Green Manure Forage crops, especially when they are young could be ploughed into the soil as green manure.
(vi) For Roofing Farmsteads: Some forage crops like guinea grass and elephant grass are usually used for roofing farmsteads as a result of their strong stems and plenty leaves.
(vii) As Bedding Materials: Most forage crops serve as bedding materials for animals.


pasture and forage crops in Nigeria

  1. Andropogon hallii – sand bluestem
  2. Arrhenatherum elatius – false oat-grass
  3. Bothriochloa bladhii – Australian bluestem
  4. Bothriochloa pertusa – hurricane grass
  5. Brachiaria decumbens – Surinam grass
  6. Brachiaria humidicola – koronivia grass
  7. Bromus spp. – bromegrasses


  1. Cenchrus ciliaris – buffelgrass
  2. Chloris gayana – Rhodes grass
  3. Cynodon dactylon – bermudagrass
  4. Dactylis glomerata – orchard grass
  5. Echinochloa pyramidalis – antelope grass
  6. Entolasia imbricata – bungoma grass
  7. Festuca spp. – fescues


  1. Festuca arundinacea – tall fescue
  2. Festuca pratensis – meadow fescue
  3. Festuca rubra – red fescue
  4. Heteropogon contortus – black spear grass
  5. Hymenachne amplexicaulis – West Indian marsh grass
  6. Hyparrhenia rufa – jaragua
  7. Leersia hexandra – southern cutgrass
  8. Lolium spp. – ryegrasses
  9. Lolium multiflorum – Italian ryegrass


  1. Lolium perenne – perennial ryegrass
  2. Megathyrsus maximus – Guinea grass
  3. Melinis minutiflora – molasses grass
  4. Paspalum conjugatum – carabao grass
  5. Paspalum dilatatum – dallisgrass
  6. Phalaris arundinacea – reed canarygrass
  7. Phleum pratense – timothy


  1. Poa spp. – bluegrasses, meadow-grasses
  2. Poa arachnifera – Texas bluegrass
  3. Poa pratensis – Kentucky bluegrass
  4. Poa trivialis – rough bluegrass
  5. Setaria sphacelata – African bristlegrass
  6. Themeda triandra – kangaroo grass
  7. Thinopyrum intermedium – intermediate wheatgrass


  Types of pastures

These are two main types of pastures. These are:

Natural Pasture:

Natural pasture is also referred to as natural grassland or range-land. In this pasture, grasses and legumes grow naturally on their own and are fed upon by farm animals, i.e. grasses are not planted by farmers. Examples of natural grassland are the savanna areas of Nigeria

Characteristics or Features of Natural Pasture

Disadvantages of natural forages and pastures

(i) Natural pasture or grassland contains poor quality grasses and legumes.
(ii) It contains soil types that are low in fertility or nutrients.
(i) It contains wide varieties of grasses and legumes, some of which may not be eaten by livestock. (iv) It has good regenerative ability.

(v) Productivity of natural pasture is very low and resistant to drought.
(vi) Forage crops in rural pastures can\’t withstand trampling by farm animals.
(vii) Natural pasture may contain some grasses which cannot be easily eradicated.
(viii) New growth is stimulated by burning.


Benefits of Artificial Pasture and Forages

This is also referred to as established or sown pasture. In this pasture, grasses and legumes are deliberately planted and managed by man to be fed on by livestock.

Characteristics or Features of Artificial Pasture:

(i) It contains high-quality grasses and legumes.
(ii) It contains no weeds except some shade trees.
(iii) Selected grasses and legumes are grown in adequate proportion.

(iv) It has the high regenerative ability to be fed on by animals.
(v) It can withstand trampling by far animals.
(vi) It is properly managed for the productivity of the forage crops e.g. fertilization, irrigation and rotational grazing

Qualities of a Good forage plant

A good pasture plant must have the following qualities:
(1) Ability 40 regenerate fast after being browsed
(2) Ability to withstand the trampling effect of the grazing
(3) A good pasture plant must be highly palatable.
(4) good pasture and forage crops must possess high-value of nutrients

a good pasture and forage crops have

Ability to withstand extremes of climatic conditions
(6) It should have moderate moisture content or succulent
(7) It must have a high leaf-to-stem ratio


These factors include:
(1) Persistence: This is the ability of pasture crops to survive and spread by vegetative means.

(2) Aggressiveness of forage: This is the ability of pasture to compete favourably with other weeds. High aggressiveness of forages ensures continuous availability of pasture crops.

(3) Resistance to Trampling by forage crops: This refers to the ability of pasture to resist continuous trampling by farm animals during grazing and still remain available to livestock to feed on.

(4) Seed Viability (or profuseness): Seeds of pasture should be viable over a long period of time. It should be easily propagated to ensure high pasture productivity. read seed propagation here

(5) Resistance to Drought: Pasture or forage crops which is able to withstand drought helps to maintain high productivity and ensures all-season availability of forages for livestock

(6) Pasture or forage crops are Pests and Diseases: The absence of pests and diseases within a pasture ensures their increased productivity.

(7) Accurate Stocking: An accurate number of animals should graze a specified area of pasture. Overgrazing does not ensure increased productivity of pasture.

(8) Good Management: Proper management practices such as regular weeding, rouging, irrigation, good grazing and fertilization should be practised to ensure increased productivity of Pasture or forage crops.


Before pasture can be established, the following factors should be considered:
(1) Adaptation of species: Legumes and grasses should be adapted to the local environment.

(2) Pasture or forage crops must be edible: Legumes and grasses to be established must be palatable and nutritious for animals

(3) Compatibility: the grass-legume mixture in the pasture must be compatible to each other

(4) Time of maturity: Grasses and legumes to be established should be able to mature within the shortest possible time.
(5) Life Cycle of the Species: Annuals with annual plants or perennials with perennial plants should be mixed together when establishing pasture. This is to ensure continuous availability of pasture.

The establishment of pasture takes the following sequence
(i) Site Selection: Select a suitable site which should be well-drained with good loamy soil.
(ii) Clearing of Land: The land should be cleared. read cultural practices here. Cut back the site with hoes and cutlasses.
(iii) Removal of Debris: Debris on the site should be removed or it could be gathered and burnt.
(iv) Cultivation of Site: The land, field or site should be cultivated by way of ploughing, harrowing and if possible ridging
(v) Planting of Pasture Crops: Planting of the desired pasture, grass or legume is carried out.
(vi) Supplying: Plant materials that fail to germinate should be supplied with new planting materials.
(vii) Planting of Legumes: Leguminous plants should be planted, especially in the case of grass and legume mixture.
(viii) Promotion of tillering: The grasses should be cut back at regular intervals to promote tillering.
(ix) Weeding: Weeding should be done at regular intervals, especially at the early stages of the pasture
(x) Fertilizer Application Apply fertilizers at the appropriate rate by broadcasting. Read how to apply fertilizer here
(xi) Irrigation: Light irrigation or watering of the planted seeds or stolons should be done, especially in arid area with low rainfall.
(xii) Paddocking The pasture should be broken into convenient units for good grazing management like rotational grazing


Determination of Plant Population of forage plants

In the establishment of a pasture, it is very important to know the quality of pasture or forage crop to plant in a specified area of land.
In doing this, it is very important to understand certain principles and formulas required to ensure an adequate plant population in an area of farmland.

In order to be able to do this, it is compulsory to read and understand the calculation of the area of farmland and population in this blog.

Example I
A piece of land to be used to establish a pasture of Centrosema pubescent was surveyed to be circular:
(i) if the radius of the land is lOOm and the spacing of the pasture legume is 80cm by 40cm, what is the population of the legume at one seed per stand?

(ii) If the germination percentage is 60, calculate the expected plant population.
(i) Area of the land is circular, therefore the formula needed is pr
Area of land = pr = 3.142 x 100 x 100
= 31.42m2
Spacing = 80cm x 40cm

Plant population of Centrosema pubescens
Area of land(m) = pr = 31.420m2
= 0.32m2
= 98,187 stands
(ii) Expected plant population:
Germination % =60%
i.e 60 x 98.187

Expected plant population: 58,912 stands of Centrosema pubescens
= 58.912
Area of land pr = 22/7 x 1m00 x 100m
= 31,428.57m2
Spacing 80cm x 40cm = 0.8m x 0.4 m
(ii) Expected plant population
Germination % 60
= 60 x 98,2 14
58, 928 stands of Centrosema pubescent



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