Growing Ontario’s Forages, Pastures, and Biomass Crops
GoForages.ca is a website designed to aid Ontario’s hay and biomass growers and livestock producers. Its focus is on emerging technologies and on updating farmers on the latest results from production research in forage crops, pastures, and biomass crops and related decision support tools. For more general recommendations on production and best management practices of these crops refer to links listed on the website.
Forages form the foundation of ruminant and equine diets. These animals require a minimum amount of forage in their diets to remain healthy and productive. Forage is not one plant species — it’s the purpose of the crop. Many species can be grown as forage. Some of these are only cultivated for forage, while others are also used in grain and oilseed production in Ontario. Forage production differs from grain and oilseed production in that the crop is not grown to physiological maturity. This difference often influences agronomy and other management decisions, which in turn affect yield and quality. High-quality forages can find a buyer in local, regional, or international markets.
Pastures contain forage crops that are grazed rather than mechanically harvested. Using livestock to harvest their own feed reduces production costs. Pasture systems require specialized infrastructure (such as fences and water systems) as well as an understanding of animal behaviour to be well managed. Since crop growth and harvest happen at the same time throughout the growing season, pasture managers must adapt quickly to changing crop growth rates and nutritional values.
Perennial biomass crops (switchgrass, miscanthus, big bluestem) hold significant economic and environmental promise. Knowledge tools and access to advance sustainable production and marketing of biomass crops will enable Ontario farmers to pursue agriculture biomass opportunity for many end use applications expanding including for livestock feed, bedding, mulch, energy, biomaterials, industrial bioproducts & bioeconomy.
The site is maintained by Christine O’Reilly, OMAFRA Forage & Grazing Specialist and Mahendra Thimmanagari, OMAFRA Bio-Products Specialist. Funding to develop this website was provided through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.