The Forage Producer’s Toolkit

Many professions must invest in tools specific to their trade to be successful. Besides the typical tools of wrenches, screwdrivers, chisels and hammers, what other items or gadgets would be helpful to be a successful forage producer?

  • People
    • Find professionals that are knowledgeable, responsive, and have a passion for forages – Advisors should provide value
    • Build good working relationships BEFORE a problem occurs
    • Your county’s Purdue Agricultural and Natural Resources Extension Educator and Natural Resources Conservation Service office are valuable resources
  • Join organizations that emphasize forages as a learning opportunity
    • Excellent considerations would be the Indiana Forage Council ( and your livestock interest association(s)
    • Provides an opportunity to network with people of like interests
  • Resource materials that emphasize forages
    • Forage magazines, websites, podcasts, apps, and publications
    • A great value is the Purdue Forage Field Guide (ID-317). A revised guide will be available late 2022
    • A helpful weed control guide to order is found at 2022 Weed Control Guide for Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois – OSU Extension Publications
      • Order both at.
    • Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Lab (
      • A resource for helping identify issues in the field
      • Can help diagnose disease, insects, unknown plants, toxins, and more by utilizing a wide range of Purdue specialists
    • Calendar
      • Document important items on a calendar or in a work diary
        • When did seeding, fertilization, pesticide applications, machine harvest and rotation to another paddock occur?
        • What was found when scouting fields? What was done to take care of the concerns?
      • Web Soil Survey (
        • Useful in sampling soil by soil type, forage species selection, and best location for building sites
      • Soil probe
        • Be consistent in timing of each sampling year if comparisons are made among years
        • Sample every three years or when big changes occur
        • Use soil test results to put a fertilizer management plan in action
      • Insect sweep net
        • Great resource for capturing aphids, potato leafhopper, and beneficial insects and to determine if there is an economic threshold
      • Yardstick and algebra
        • Equations are found in the Purdue Forage Field Guide
        • Helps determine length of stay in a pasture and stocking capacity
        • Move on to another paddock when there is 4” residual height
      • Hay probe
        • Used to collect forage sample to test forages for
          • nutritional value followed by formulating rations
          • molds or other poisonous substances
  • Moisture and temperature hay bale probe
    • Accurate testing of moisture and temperature determines when to harvest and whether hay in storage may become a concern.
      • Too dry – less than 15 percent – Dry matter and quality loss
      • Too wet
        • Heating – Unavailable crude protein, mold and spontaneous combustion
      • Test moisture before harvest; test moisture and temperature often after baling for 3 – 4 weeks
      • Know your “danger zones”
        • >20 % moisture without an organic acid preservative
        • > 125 °F: Begin monitoring temperature often
      • Penn State Particle Separator
        • Check chop length from a representative field sample and adjust forage harvester as needed
        • Correct chop length allows for best silo packing, lactic acid formation, and proper rumen function
      • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Worthy of Consideration
        • Grazing pressure
        • Species composition
        • Plant disease concerns
        • Soil fertility problems
        • Insect pressure
        • Check on water tank function
        • Livestock well being

To be a successful forage producer it is important to invest resources in items that can help with forage production and harvest. From the items noted above, what will be your first of many investments that can improve your business?


Standard tools are necessary on the farm, but other “tools” are necessary investments, too.
Source: Keith Johnson

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