Once a forage crop is established, careful management is required to ensure it reaches its full potential and is fully utilised in its most productive and nutritious phases of growth.
Pests and diseases must also be managed to minimise their impact on productivity.
The grazing of fodder crops should be timed to occur when the plants are well anchored in the soil and at phases in the growth cycle when the plants are at their most nutritious. This will vary between plant species, but is generally before the plant enters the reproductive phase and begins to hay off.
A well considered grazing strategy is important in maximising the productive potential of a fodder crop as they are capable of producing a large volume of feed over a relatively short period of time.
Forage crops can be grown for the sole purpose of fodder conservation. Fodder conservation can be a useful way to make the most of forage that is surplus to a grazing requirement. Forage crops are generally conserved as hay or silage, depending upon the crop and the intended use of the forage.
The timing of both grazing events and the cutting for hay or silage are critical to ensuring that the quality and quantity of conserved fodder are optimised - generally when earlier when the forage quality (digestibility or energy content) is highest.
Pests and diseases can damage forage crops if they are not dealt with soon after a problem is identified.
Integrated pest management (IPM) strategies use a combination of biological, physical and chemical control measures to control pests and are considered the most effective and sustainable approach to addressing pest problems.
Disease and deficiencies pose a similar risk to fodder crops that pests do and these should be monitored when checking crops for pests. Disease control should be considered prior to sowing or seeding and where possible crops species selected for disease resistance if a disease is known to pose a particular risk.