Submitted to: Grassland International Congress Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/9/1997
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary: As more knowledge is acquired on forage crop growth, harvest and use, the need to study the crop in an integrated farming system is increasing. Forage crops are interrelated to many other parts of the farm by the flow of material and nutrients, the scheduling of operations and the priority for use of limited available funds. Animal based farming systems must be developed that have all farm components working together to provide profitable and sustainable food production. The growing concern over environmental impacts of farms also brings greater need to study the whole farm and its relationship to the environment. This work reviews various topics related to forage production in an integrated farming system. Direction is provided for future research to fill information gaps and modeling needs for better analysis of forages in a whole farm context. National and international forage researchers are invited to apply their expertise toward improving the evaluation of forages in farming systems. Through a focused international effort, forages will develop a more important role in profitable and sustainable animal production systems.
Technical Abstract: Forage is often produced and used in an integrated farming system along with other crops and animals. The system is very complex including soil, crop, machinery, and animal components that interact with each other and the environment to enable the production of feed and animal products. Research has quantified and modeled many of the individual components and interactions. Comprehensive computer models that integrate the many processes provide useful research tools for evaluating the performance and economics of alternative technologies and management strategies in forage production. Opportunities for further development of research models include 1) integration of forages in cropping system models that evaluate production benefits along with externality costs to society, 2) integration of more crop options along with forages in animal production system models, and 3) integration of grazing and conserved forage systems in a more comprehensive animal production model. Research models can provide useful teaching aids when an extensive yet intuitive user interface is included. Although models are often promoted for use in farm management, most have not become useful management aids. Model complexity and lack of training often prevent users from relying on model results for decision making. More sophisticated user interfaces are needed to assist in setting model parameters and verifying and interpreting model results to encourage wider use of farming system models as management aids.