UACES Facebook Pastures & Forages

Arkansas Pasture and Forages

Steer & Hefer Grazing on Brassica
Brangus Cross Cows Grazing on Brassica - Faulkner County, AR

Arkansas has approximately 6 million acres of forage including about 1.5 million acres of hayland and 4.5 million acres of pasture. The primary forages are tall fescue and bermudagrass. Forages such as annual ryegrass, many species of clover, small grains, and others are also grown across the state. Forage productivity varies widely from the limestone and chert-based soils of the northern Ozarks, the shale/sandstone derived soils of the Ouachita Mountains, the Gulf Coastal Plain soils of south Arkansas, and the Delta soils of eastern Arkansas. Forages provide the main feed source for cattle, horses, small ruminants, and many species of wildlife. Cool season forages such as tall fescue and clover are dominant in north Arkansas and parts of the Ouachita Mountains, while warm season forages such as bermudagrass and bahiagrass are dominant in southern Arkansas.

A forage system may include pasture, hay, silage, crop residues or any combination of these. Grazing is the most economical method for harvesting forages so well-managed pasture is a very important feed source. When sufficient forage is not available for grazing, cattle are fed stored forages such as hay or silage. Machine harvesting of forages for hay or silage adds expense, but also adds flexibility because harvested forages can be stored for later use or transported for feeding in other locations.

Managing pastures for different seasonal forage requirements:

Different livestock operations require different seasonal pasture strategies for optimum animal production. Spring-calving herds have different seasonal forage requirements than fall-calving herds. Stocker calf operations need higher quality forage than cow/calf 

Forages for Spring and Fall Pasturesoperations. A good forage program includes plans to ensure adequate pasture and hay quantity and quality to match the animal requirements during each season.

Forages for Summer Pastures

Bahiagrass
Bahiagrass

Warm-season grasses grow rapidly during the summer months but grow very little in spring or fall. Warm-season grasses provide good quality, actively growing forage during the hot summer when cool-season grasses and many legumes are dormant or unproductive. A forage program that includes both warm-season and cool-season grass pastures will provide a more constant forage supply over the growing season. Typical perennial warm-season grasses grown in Arkansas include bermudagrass, bahiagrass, dallisgrass, and johnsongrass. Some annual warm-season grasses include crabgrass, millet (several species), and sorghum-sudan. Where wildlife is important on the farm, native warm-season grasses are grown to provide nesting cover and can be grazed or harvested for hay. Native warm-season grasses include big bluestem, indiangrass, little bluestem, eastern gamagrass, and switchgrass.

Pasture Plant Identification Photo Library

Proper identification of forages and weeds is important for good pasture and hay management.  Photographs of plants and key ID features are listed to help users learn how to ID pature plants.  Plants are sorted as Grasses, Legumes, Forbs, and Woody Plants.

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Grasses

Grasses make up the forage base in hay fields and pastures across Arkansas and include common species such as tall fescue, bermudagrass, and ryegrass.

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Legumes

Legumes include clovers, vetch, alfalfa, lespedeza and others. Legumes improve forage quality and are very useful as forage and for wildlife improvement.

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Weeds/Forbs

Many broadleaf plants are considered to be forbs or weeds depending on use. Many forbs are very useful for wildlife, but have limited value as forage. Others provide good grazing in certain situations.

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Woody Plants

Woody plants include shrubs, vines and trees.Woody plants are useful, but oak brush in pasture is much less valuable than oak trees large enough for lumber harvest or mast production for wildlife.

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Livestock and Forage Links