The Forage Producer’s Toolkit

Many professions requiring investing 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?


Standard tools are necessary on the farm, but other “tools” are necessary investments, too. (Photo Credit: Keith Johnson)

Standard tools are necessary on the farm, but other “tools” are necessary investments, too. (Photo Credit: Keith Johnson)


  • 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
    • Many forage/livestock information can be found at
  • Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab (
    • A resource for helping identify issues in the field
    • Can help diagnose disease, insects, unknown plants, toxins, and more by utilizing expertise 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
    • Hay probe
      • Test forages for nutritional value
      • Aids in formulating rations
      • Can test forage that may contain molds or other poisonous substances
      • Many different hay probe options – See
    • Moisture and temperature hay bale probe
      • Accurate testing of moisture and temperature determines 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 in small square bales without an organic acid preservative; > 18 % with large round bales
          • > 125 °F: Begin monitoring temperature often
        • Three-Sieve 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/livestock 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? Buy a birthday gift for yourself!

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