The ambiguous title for this article is because the definition of high forage diets is vague and unique to different people, writes Michael Miller dairy nutrition consultant with Trouw Nutrition.
Technically speaking, a diet that is 50% forage or greater is a high forage diet – which could be considered low to normal for the Northeast part of the US, whereas this could be considered high for the Southeast US. Feeding homegrown forages is one of the most effective ways to reduce feed costs. However, implementing a high forage diet that can support high production is complex and requires the consideration of multiple factors.
1. Forage Inventory: The first and most obvious factor is forage inventory. Do you have enough inventory to support high forage diets and not run out of feed? If you do have to buy forage, then the cost savings of growing your own is minimized. When evaluating high forage diets, it is beneficial to measure your inventory and measure usage, and this can be done with help from your feeder and nutritionist.
2. Forage Quality: The next factor is the forage quality, more specifically fiber, as lower quality forage limits intake and milk production. Fiber has been historically quantified by neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and has been related to intake and chewing activity. Although NDF is a good indicator