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Ashleigh Smith

Aug 9
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Written By Lara Wadsworth

Forage crops for cattle are some of the best ways to ensure that your cattle, whether beef or dairy, get the necessary nutrients. It is a cost-effective process that is easy to maintain and offers ample nutrients to the cattle and the soil. The following are the best recommendations for forage crops. Some people choose to plant one crop in a field; however, an even better way to approach it is to plant a sort of ‘cocktail’ of various seeds. This is the healthiest approach for cattle but also for soil health. Variety is king!

Peas and Soybeans

Two high-protein options that also provide quality energy to cattle. Peas and soybeans are also legumes and nitrogen fixators. Soybeans are also known to have healthy oils and fiber content, which further benefit cattle. They improve the soil throughout their growing season and raise nitrogen levels. Till them in or let them decompose naturally to increase the soil nitrogen content. For selecting a ‘cocktail,’ choose at least one of these highly effective legumes to incorporate.


The perfect option for calves and cattle transitioning to forage crops or feed, especially during fall grazing. The high fiber content of the hulls is very bulky and easy to eat. Oats are simple to grow because they will die over several hard freezes and effortlessly make way for a different crop in the spring.


According to the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, turnips are great for lactating cows and growing calves especially fall-calving cows. It is particularly desirable when mixed with oats as a combination feed.


The ideal dual-purpose crop for forage and cover cropping! Sorghum is highly cost-effective because it rolls the cost of forage and cover crops into one concise and effective planting. The roots of the sorghum plant are not harvested and will remain in the soil, which improves soil benefits as well. Furthermore, it is winter-killed and can be stockpiled, similar to corn, for winter grazing.


Looking to extend your growing season? Rye is a perfect fall-planted crop for forage and cover cropping. Rye increases forage yields in the fall and winter and reduces forage production costs.


Barley is the perfect crop to increase energy and protein sources in your cover or forage crop cocktail. It is similar to wheat and corn in purpose. Although it provides slightly less energy to cows, it is higher in protein and fiber than corn, wheat, or oats.


The perfect winter forage crop for beef and dairy farmers. Triticale is also great for excessive nitrogen and phosphorus uptake in areas where nutrient water leaching is an issue. It is also highly adaptable to sandy and acidic soils, making it ideal for many fields where wheat or oats may have struggled.

Additional Resources

Lara Wadsworth, True Leaf Market Writer

I am a native of Southwestern Michigan, where I also reside, and I love all things plants! I got a Bachelor's Degree in Horticulture and found the first work-from-home job I could get. Now, I spend my days writing for TLM, playing with my dog, eating delicious food with my husband, and plotting my next landscape or gardening move. I believe everyone should get down and dirty in the soil now and then. Happy Gardening!

Become a True Leaf Market Brand Ambassador! You’ll enjoy awesome perks, free products and exclusive swag & offers! Help us create a gardening revolution and help others experience the joy of growing!

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