Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Educational Materials

These documents were written for a more general, less scientific, audience. They are useful for educators, producers, industry reps and policy makers. All documents may be copied for educational purposes.

 

All materials are in PDF format. Click here to download the free Adobe Reader, including web browser plug-in.

 

Especially for Teachers

What is Forage? A basic description of forage in the form of pastures, hay and silage.

Is it a Grass or Legume? An explanation of the differences between grass and legume forages.

Forage is Good for the environment. An explanation of the many ways that forage benefits the environment.

Sustainable Nutrient Cycle. All living things need nutrients. This is an explanation of how nutrients are cycled through crops, cows, and people.

What Do Dairy Cows Eat? A description of the customary – and not so customary – feeds that dairy cows eat.

Rumens Make Cows Special. An explanation of a cow’s rumen (the first of four chambers in her stomach) and why it allows cows to eat things that humans can’t eat.

How Do Cows Make Milk? A diagram showing how cows break down the nutrients in feed and then reassemble them in another form to make milk.

A Peek Inside a Dairy Cow. A diagram of a cow’s digestive system and also of the inside of an udder where milk is produced.

Cows are good citizens. A 6-page handout looking at the big picture of how cows help society by making good use of land, eating byproducts of the food, fiber and biofuel industries, and more.

If Cows Could Text...  A playful look at a cow's unique characteristics and beneficial contributions to humankind.

Mind your Ps and Ns. A handout discussing ways to measure and monitor phosphorus and nitrogen on the farm.

How is a cow like an ethanol production plant? A handout explaining how both cows and ethanol plants use fermentation to convert one form of energy into another.

Major greenhouse gases (GHG) produced on dairy farms. A handout explaining which greenhouse gases are produced where on dairy farms.

 

Forage Production and Grazing

Perennial forages benefit soils, other crops, and water quality in important ways. A Fact Sheet explaining the direct benefits of perennial forages used in rotation or as a cover crop, and the more far-reaching benefits of perennial forages in terms of improved soil and water quality.

Growing high-quality grasses for dairy rations requires attention to detail. A Fact Sheet with advice on growing grasses as an intentional source of high quality forage for dairy rations.

 Measuring the trade-off between alfalfa yield and quality across four harvest periods. A Fact Sheet with harvest recommendations based on the improving knowledge of the relationships among alfalfa yield, quality, and persistence.

Alfalfa yield and quality relationships within individual harvests.  A PDF of a PowerPoint presentation describing a study that looked at the trade-off between yield and quality on an individual cutting basis – not just on an annual basis.

With larger bales, heating occurs at lower moisture levels; loss of energy can be substantial A fact sheet discussing the greater potential for heating and for energy loss in large bales

Planting date effects on the yield and nutritive value of fall-grown oat cultivars. A Fact Sheet discussing which types of oat cultivars to plant in the fall based on how late in the growing season they’re being planted.

A quick lesson in plant structure, growth and regrowth for pasture-based dairy systems. A Fact Sheet describing plant growth and structure and how they’re affected by weather and grazing management.

Basic plant physiology for grazing. A PDF of a PowerPoint presentation describing plant growth and structure and how they’re affected by weather and grazing management.

Effect of residue height and timing of grazing on pasture quality, productivity and persistence. A Fact Sheet answering common questions graziers have about the timing of grazing based on the time of year and condition of the plant.

 

Forage Research

Redesigning alfalfa: Can we reduce protein loss in alfalfa by introducing traits from red clover? A Fact Sheet discussing research aimed at modifying the alfalfa plant so that less protein is degraded during ensiling and in the cow’s rumen.

Increasing persistence in pasture legumes: Red clover, kura clover, birdsfoot trefoil. A Fact Sheet describing research aimed at breeding improved legume cultivars for use in pastures.

 

Silage

Silage inoculants: What the research tells us about when and how to use them. A Fact Sheet describing the effects of silage inoculants under various management and conditions.

 Are forage thieves robbing you of your profits? A handout showing how costly forage losses can be and ways to reduce forage losses.

 

Dairy Nutrition

10 reasons to make forage first in the ration. A handout listing reasons forages are good for milk production, cow health, the soil and the environment.

Rumen microbes: Take a closer look at these interesting creatures that both work for and feed dairy cattle. A Fact Sheet explaining the essential role that microbes play in ruminant digestion and nutrition. Includes microscopic photos of protozoa and bacteria.

Unlocking rumen secrets for more efficient utilization of dairy cattle diets. A Fact Sheet describing the need for more intensive animal nutrition research.

Ruminations: Questions and Answers and other thoughts on the role of rumen microbes in dairy cattle.  A 23-book discussing rumen microbes in a question-and-answer format.

Using manure evaluation as a diagnostic tool for feeding programs. A PDF of a PowerPoint presentation explaining what can be learned about cow health and nutrient utilization by looking at manure.

In addition to measuring nitrogen use efficiency, MUN can track ammonia emissions on dairy farms. A Fact Sheet showing how the commonly used milk urea nitrogen (MUN) test can also be used to measure the extent of ammonia emissions that escape into the environment from dairy farms.

 

Manure, Nutrients and the Environment

Easy does it with manure on alfalfa and grass. A Fact Sheet explaining what to do and what to avoid when applying manure to perennial forages.

Snap-shot assessment of nutrient use efficiency on confinement dairy farms. A Fact Sheet describing a method to measure nutrient use efficiency on dairy farms by taking a snap-shot assessment of feed, fertilizer and manure use.

Abating ammonia emissions from dairy barns and fields. A Fact Sheet showing the nitrogen flow from feed to field on a dairy plus a discussion on ammonia emissions and how they can be reduced.

Ammonia emissions from dairy cattle: What we know, what can be done. A PDF of a PowerPoint presentation discussing the sources of ammonia emissions on dairy farms and how they can be reduced through management changes in the feeding program, manure handling and storage, and the field application of manure.

Is your dairy farm out of nutrient balance? A handout encouraging farmers to look at their whole farm nutrient balance, not just the nutrients they feed their cows or soil.

 

Bioenergy from Crops

Providing a unique and essential contribution to bioenergy research and byproduct utilization. A Fact Sheet explaining how research related to the fermentation of forages in a cow’s rumen can be related to the fermentation of cellulosic materials for biofuel production.

Adding an alfalfa rotation with corn grown for ethanol improves energy efficiency, reduces environmental impact. A Fact Sheet describing an economic and environmental analysis of rotating alfalfa into corn crops being grown for ethanol production.


Last Modified: 8/8/2013