What are forages and why are they important to society?
Forages are crops used to support livestock production and are located in almost every county within every state in the US. Pastures and hayfields are more than part of our everyday landscape. They support animal agriculture and provide a host of other benefits to society. The American Forage and Grassland Council is celebrating the role of forages in our daily lives during June 19 through June 25 as part of National Forage Week with the theme of “focus on forages.”
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Focus on forages and their role in creating and supporting the following:
Forages promote soil health by providing ground cover, reducing erosion, and improving water infiltration and retention in pasture systems. Livestock also recycle nutrients back to the pasture, which can help with forage regrowth and promote healthy soils. It is a system that gives back and keeps going with management.
Forages make up the majority of the daily diet of grazing livestock. Ruminant animals, such as cattle, sheep and goats, have a specialized digestive tract that allows them to digest forages. Forages are primarily grown on lands that are unsuitable for other types of crop production. Instead of being a land resource that we cannot use, grazing livestock can convert forages into high-quality milk or protein for human consumption.
Forages support the production of animal and dairy products that we know and enjoy as consumers. These resources are part of a balanced diet and represent a direct link between the consumer, the farmer and the role of forage agriculture.
Forages provide ecosystem services to society, which support a health planet. Ecosystem services are secondary services provided by the system outside of the main objective of supporting food production. Services include adding aesthetic value to the landscape, greenhouse gas mitigation, biological nitrogen fixation, water capture and purification, and habitat for wildlife. These services illustrate how forages are integrated into many aspects of our lives and create a connection back to agriculture.
As the leader and voice of economically and environmentally sound forage focused agriculture, AFGC understands the impact of forages on the world and invites you to join in on and share our educational efforts during National Forage Week. Join our social media campaign by using #NationalForageWeek to tag posts, promote our theme of “forages as the focus” by highlighting a part of your forage story, and share forage facts with friends.
—From an American Forage and Grassland Council news release