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Management of Forages for Goat Production


Planting of Forages

Uniform and immediate germination of planted forages should be of paramount concern, which assures survival of seedlings at the lowest cost. Hence, plant the forages in the field only when you are assured the soil will remain wet for at least one month after planting.

If your seeds have low germination, do any of the following:
  1. Increase the sowing rate or the number of seeds per sowing area,to increase germination rate.
  2. Wait until the seeds have recovered from dormancy or when they have physiologically ripened after 3-6 months from harvest (only for grass seeds)
When planting forages from seed, you need to:
  1. Sow in a well-prepared soil.
  2. Cover the seeds lightly and not too deep
Sow in rows to facilitate weeding and identification of seedlings. To achieve these, prepare your area well, preferably by:
  1. Having one pass of plowing followed by two passes of harrowing
  2. Furrowing
Watch the video below to know how forage seeds can be sow

Weed the area around the seedlings.Weeding is needed for seedlings to grow fast.

Protect the seedlings from insect damage, erosion and intruders by fencing off the area. Local materials like bamboo sticks can be used to fence seedlings for protection.

You can minimize cost of seedling maintenance by:
  1. Sowing seeds in a seedbed then transplanting them when they are big enough.  A seedbed is a bed of soil in which the seedlings can be raised. The cost of seedling maintenance is lesser when seeds are sown in a small area and allowed to grow  before transplanting.

    Transplant grasses and legumes 15-30 days after the seedlings have emerged.
  2. Before planting,  apply 3 bags of complete fertilizer, 14-14-14, per hectare. When seedlings are fertilized, they grow faster and need less weeding or maintenance activities.

Cutting and Grazing Management

Proper Cutting Schedules
Start cutting/grazing your forages when they are about to mature.
  • For grasses, cut or graze at 4 months after planting. You have to cut grasses low (<15cm or less than half a foot from the ground) and at shorter intervals, every 6 weeks in the wet season and 8 weeks in the dry season.
  • For low-growing broadleaves, such as herbs and shrubs, cut at 8 months. Cut herb and shrub broadleaves at heights not less than a foot from ground level every 8 weeks in the wet season and 12 weeks in the dry season.
  • For trees, cut at 1 year. Cut tree broadleaves high (>1m from ground) every 8-12 weeks.

Proper Cutting Method
You can produce better regrowth from grasses when they are cut low (less than 15cm).

On the other hand, broadleaves give better regrowth at higher cutting heights (30cm from theground for herbs, 50cm for shrubs and 100cm for trees). Just make sure that you do not damage the remaining part to assure good regrowth. This can be done by cutting in an upward direction. See video below on how cutting is done. 

Cut back  all your grazed forage grasses at least once a year (preferably every 3 months) so that they can produce better regrowth.

Fertilization of Forages

Reasons for Fertilizing
When you feed the forage to goats, you remove nutrients from the soil. Depletion of soil nutrients lead to yellowing, slow growth, decreased feeding value, and even death of your forages. Where practical, use the manure from your goats to fertilize your forages; otherwise, apply inorganic fertilizer.

Amount of Fertilizer Needed
The amount of fertilizer that you need to apply depends on the forage species, how you use it (cut-and-carry or grazing) and the fertility of your soil

To get started, you can either:
  1. Use fertilizer recommendations for common food crops in your area
    • corn or rice for grasses
    • mungbean or peanuts for broadleaves
  2. Start with 3 sacks of complete fertilizer (14-14-14) / hectare per year, then vary it and observe the response of your forages.

If your goats are confined, you can facilitate the return of manure to the land by collecting the waste materials, drying them for a month and using them as fertilizer to your crops.

Proper Way of Fertilizing
When applying fertilizer, make sure that the ground is wet; be sure to also cover the applied fertilizer immediately with soil. Apply preferably after cutting or grazing your forages. It would be practical for you to divide the total amount of fertilizer into portions and applied after each cut (except for the dry season cutting).

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