Fodder comes from different types of plant cover: rangelands that are generally grazed, meadows and forage crops (alfalfa, meslin, corn silage, etc.) that can be grazed and/or harvested.
Harvested forage can be distributed in troughs or kept dry (hay) or wet (silage or wrapping). It is the interaction between herds, practices, and plant covers that makes fodder: fodder does not exist as such. Breeders’ skills and management objectives develop along this interaction to give fodder its specificity.
The agronomic objective of forage resource is being in sufficient quantity, throughout the year, while being appetizing and balanced in nutrients. The animals’ needs in fodder are estimated based on the herd’s composition. However, anticipating fodder availability is tough as it depends on climate variability between years and seasons.
The management of fodder resources therefore requires a lot of knowledge and a capacity to anticipate from the farmer when choosing his fodder resource, scaling the necessary land, and planning an optimum use, in order to be flexible enough when dealing with climatic variability. On top of the quantity of fodder, this management must also take into consideration the nutritional value (energy and protein content) and the congestion value (ability of the food to be ingested). Grazing management and distribution of harvested stocks have to be reasoned together to achieve a stable compromise over the year between fodder quality and quantity.
The management of forage resources is based on the principles of agroecology when it is part of a system based on the biological diversity of plant resources, whose complementarity in time and space contributes to the autonomy of the farms.
References to explore
Connell, John, Stür, W.W., Horne, Peter. 2010. Forages and farmers: case studies from South-East Asia. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Vientiane, LA; Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), Canberra, AU. 120 p.