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Forage includes grasses and legumes in the understory that are used as hay or food for livestock.  While the process of forage establishment in a silvopasture system is similar to accepted practices for open pasture establishment, the most productive forages in agroforestry systems are somewhat shade tolerant. The important steps of site preparation, seedling rates, planting depth, and acquiring adapted, high quality seed or springs do not change in a silvopasture system.
Depending on objectives, landowners may choose to manage for traditional pasture forages or native warm season forages. There is no “all-season” plant available that can be effective as forage year-around.  The growth period for warm season grasses is different than cool season and will vary by species, so it is important to know the growth period of the species being managed, and what is best for your location.

Traditional pasture forages

Warm season
  • Pensacola Bahiagrass – Native to South America and Mexico, this grass is a popular livestock forage that is best identified by its “Y” shaped seed head.  It has high nutritional value, is drought tolerant and spreads quickly.  However, because of this it can also choke-out potentially desirable native grasses. 
  • Coastal Bermudagrass – Thought to be one of the best pasture and hay grasses, Bermudagrass can grow on many soils if managed properly.  Crimson clover works well as a legume in this system.
Cool season

  • Ryegrass  - Often over seeded with other forage crop ryegrass is a cool season perennial grass that is fairly shade tolerant
  • Crimson clover – This legume is a good cool weather cover crop that is often planted with warm season pasture forages listed above. 

For more information on forage and forage management look at the links below:
Native warm season grasses
•                Bluestems - The bluestems, known also as “beard grasses” or “sage grasses”, are the most valuable native forage grasses in the South. They usually furnish more than half the forage for range cattle. Heights range from about 1 foot in little bluestem to more than 6 feet in big bluestem. Most species do not flower until late summer or fall. Tufts are generally spread by tilling, but some species may spread by rhizomes.
•                Wire grass – This warm season, native grass is common in southern forests of Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.  It gets its name from the thin, wire-like texture of its leaves.  This species requires management with prescribed fire to reproduce and flower.
•                Gamagrass – This native, warm season, tall perennial bunch grass produces forage for grazing and hay production. It naturally occurs from Massachusetts, west to Michigan, Iowa and Nebraska, south to Florida, Oklahoma, and Texas. Eastern gamagrass occurs under a wide variety of growing conditions and provides both forage and wildlife benefits.