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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.

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. Big picture at how cows help society by making good use of land, eating byproducts of the food, fiber and biofuel industries, and more.

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.

Microbes keep cows alive. Rumen microbes help cows digest feed. They're also a good source of protein for cows.

10 reasons cows need forage. A handout listing reasons forages are good for milk production, cow health, the soil, and the environment.

Forage Production and Grazing

Improving the establishment and subsequent yield of alfalfa interseeded into silage corn. A Fact Sheet about research on interseeding alfalfa with silage corn (during corn's last year in the rotation), using plant growth regulators on the alfalfa that will ensure alfalfa is successfully established in corn.

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.

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.

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.

Redesigning alfalfa: Capturing more protein for economic and environmental sustainability. A Fact Sheet explaining USDFRC research with condensed tannins and a PPO/o-diphenol system for improving the nitrogen use efficiency of alfalfa.


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.


Manure, Nutrients and the Environment

Research enhances nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon use on farms. Nutrients such as N, P, and C are critical to crop milk production on a farm.  This fact sheet explains the various pathways these nutrients take on the farm and ways that producers can put more nutrients into milk and crops and fewer into runoff, leaching, and gaseous emissions.

Using MUN to reduce nitrogen emissions from dairy farms. A Fact Sheet showing how milk urea nitrogen, in addition to being used to monitor feed efficiency, also can be used to help reduce nitrogen emissions from dairy farms.

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.

Airborne pathogens from dairy manure aerial irrigation and the human health risk.


Last Modified: 9/9/2016
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