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Forage-Budgeting Guidelines

Livestock producers are generally well aware of how much money is required to operate their business from year to year. The cost of incidentals necessary for running the operation have been carefully considered, and money has been allocated for each item. Typically, there may even be a small surplus to handle unforeseen circumstances. This process of allocating money is known as budgeting.


However, the same close attention that is given to the allocation of money should also be given to the allocation of forage resources. The development of a forage-budgeting plan requires a careful and reasonable estimate of both the production capability of the pasture and the forage requirements of the grazing livestock. The plan should also identify any seasonal deficiency or excess in forage availability.


The forage-budgeting process is built around a good recordkeeping system and begins with an accurate estimate of forage production. When an estimate of total forage production is related to the forage demand by grazing livestock, producers can make stocking rate decisions that more accurately reflect the production potential of their pastures.


Without a forage-budgeting plan, livestock producers are more likely to overstock or understock their pastures. Overstocking results in a decrease in desirable forage species, an increase in weed species, reduced animal performance, and ultimately, a reduction in the carrying capacity of the ranch. Understocking results in wasted forage and a reduced profit potential for the operation.


This fact sheet is designed to simplify forage budgeting. Included are estimates of (a) animal dry matter consumption (Table 1), and forage yields (Table 2), (b) a worksheet for estimating forage requirements (Table 3), and (c) forage growing and potential grazing seasons (Table 4).


Be aware that this forage-budgeting guideline does have limitations. It does not consider the variation in production capability between different pastures, the management level of the producer, the harvest efficiency of the livestock, nor the differences in grazing preferences between livestock species. Your OSU Extension Agriculture Educator and the resource people who they rely on can help you make reasonable site-specific estimates and provide other assistance as needed.


Table 1. Estimated daily forage dry matter (DM) requirement.

Animal Type DM Requirement (lbs)
300 lbs 9
400 lbs 12
500 lbs 15
600 lbs 18
Cows 26
Bulls 32
Horses 32
Sheep 5
Goats 4
White-tailed Deer 4

 Table 2. Estimated annual forage dry matter production (tons/acre)*

Forage Species lbs (N/acre) 0 50 100 150 200
Bermudagrass (tons/acre) 1.0 1.8 2.8 3.4 3.9
Old World Bluestem (tons/acre) 1 1.9 2.7 3.3 3.7
Sorghum/Sudangrass (tons/acre) 1.5 2.5 3.5 4.3 5
Tall Fescue (tons/acre) 0.8 1.7 2.4 3 3.5
Weeping Lovegrass (tons/acre) 1 2 2.9 3.6 4
Small Grains/Ryegrass (tons/acre)          
Clean-Tilled (tons/acre) 1 1.5 2.1 2.5 3
Sod-Seeded (tons/acre) 0.8 1.2 2    
Legumes (tons/acre)          
Arrowleaf Clover (tons/acre) 2-3        
Hairy Vetch (tons/acre) 1-1.5        
Korean Lespedeza (tons/acre) 1-1.5        
Red Clover (tons/acre) 2-3        
Rose Clover (tons/acre) 2-2.5        
Subterranean Clover (tons/acre) 1.5-2        
White (ladino) clover (tons/acre) 2-2.5        

*Production may be limited by lack of precipitation.


Table 3. Worksheet for estimating livestock forage requirement and forage production potential.


Table 3.1 Livestock Forage Requirement


Table 3.2 Forage Production


Table 4.


Table 4


Alex Rocateli

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