5 types of fodder explained and how to know which one to use

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Anyone who has gotten into livestock care knows that the question “what to feed my animals” is huge. It can be overwhelming, and information is hard to find and harder to navigate. Words like “fodder” are thrown around like we all know what it means.

Some people use the word “forage” to refer to only sprouted grains, others use the word to refer to all grains or silage-type fermented foods. So what is forage and how do you determine which types of forage belong in your feeding program?

Let’s sort it all out:


What is fodder?

The word fodder simply means any food grown to feed domestic livestock such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, pigs or rabbits. fodder is food You feed your animals, while forage is what your animals eat while grazing – what they feed themselves.

Forage includes a wide variety of grains, legumes, grasses, pellets, oils and supplements. Most forages are completely plant-based, but it doesn’t have to be. Animals like chickens and pigs can also benefit from animal protein.

For example, when I give my pigs extra goat’s milk or yogurt, that’s roughage. When I add mealworms to my chicken feed, it’s also roughage. Forage can include such a variety of foods that it is usually divided into two subtypes to maintain clarity.

The two types of fodder

Once you understand how much goes under the “forage” label, you can see why it’s easier to subdivide into categories. Animals have a variety of unique needs and different forages support different aspects of animal nutrition.

In the summer, when your animals feed more on their own, their varied forage needs decrease. In winter, when pastures are less accessible, their fodder needs increase. Some types of forage are only needed in one season, while others may be needed all year round.

So what are the two types of fodder and what should you know about each type? The fodder includes roughage And concentrates. Let’s take a close look at each type now, so you can decide which ones belong in your diet.


Hay, silage (fermented herb), and filling legumesas well as cereal seeds such as oats and corn, constitute the roughage category.

Roughage can be divided into two smaller categories: grasses and legumes. Depending on the type of roughage, this type of roughage can be high in protein and other nutrients, or it can be full of fiber and trace minerals.

1. Grasses

Grassy forage forages form the backbone of your feeding plan. Unless your animals have year-round access to quality pasture, you will need to feed your animals at least one or two quality roughages per day. Let’s look at some of the main roughages: hay and silage.

Hay is often the first fodder that comes to mind. With reason. Watching animals need hay when grazing is not possible. Hay is the definitive fodder. It fills the animal and provides plenty of pasture-grown nutrients to keep your pet healthy.

Animals like geese, rabbits and pigs can also eat hay.

Not everyone uses silage. It is a popular fodder for cattle and sheep, but many farmers avoid silage and stick to grain and hay.

Silage is a crop of green fodder that has been fermented instead of dried. The silage was fermented to the point of souring, then stored and fed to animals when they did not have access to pasture. Fermentation can improve ruminant digestion, and allows silage to last a long time over winter.

2. Legumes

Legume forages are richer in protein and other major nutrients. These forages are especially useful during the freezing winter months. These forages can help your animals maintain their body temperature in extreme conditions and maintain a balanced, nutrient-dense diet.

Legume forages include alfalfa, CloverAnd buckwheat. These crops often resemble roughages, but are much denser in nutrients. Feed alfalfa and other legumes in smaller amounts to boost nutrition and maintain a healthy herd.


Cereal grains like but, oatsAnd barley are nutrient-dense concentrates that can balance your pet’s nutrients and boost their energy. These forages are often blended with other concentrates to produce pelleted feeds that manage to be filling and highly nutritious.

Concentrates also include supplements like molasses, minerals, animal fats, oils, and other additions. Licks, seed blocks, and other support foods also fall into the category of concentrates.

Many farmers have chosen to use pelleted concentrates, which are premixed to provide a generally balanced diet. Sometimes, however, an animal needs an extra supplement.

1. Sprouted grains

Cereal grains are often sprouted to increase the grain’s nutritional value, make it more filling, and increase digestibility. Sprouted fodder is a fantastic option for farmers who have the time to spend sprouting grains each week.

Sprouted fodder is also less dry, which can be helpful in keeping animals hydrated. Chickens seem to particularly like sprouted grains. In winter, when access to fresh fodder is difficult for chickens, sprouted fodder can help them lay well and produce bright orange yolks.

When sprouting fodder, it is important to use sprouted grain in a timely manner.

Don’t let the sprouts get moldy or all the benefits will be lost and you could make your animals sick. If you’re too busy to keep track of your sprouted grains (and we all are sometimes!), start feeding an unsprouted concentrate again until your schedule clears.

2. Extra-concentrated

Sometimes our animals need a helping hand. Here in New England, winter is the season for extra-concentrate forages. Concentrates like molasses, apple cider vinegar, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, sunflower seeds, mealworms and milk can really improve your pet’s health.

But these concentrates can be easy to overuse. While many pets can handle a fair amount of molasses and apple cider vinegar, too much of the good stuff can also be overwhelming.

If you’re adding additional concentrates to boost nutrition or address a specific craving, take it slow. Observe your animal’s behavior and manure to determine if he needs more or less of a particular concentrate. Often too much concentrate will cause diarrhea or digestive discomfort.

Don’t let your pet have free access to concentrates like grains, seeds, and mealworms. Ruminants in particular will consume too much grain and end up with bloating or diarrhea. Although hay can be given freely, take care when giving concentrates and do not leave them in easily accessible areas.

On the other hand, concentrates like salt and minerals work best when offered freely. Unless your pets aren’t used to mineral licks, they won’t overdo it. Just make sure that whenever you have a salt or mineral block, you keep a close eye on the water supply.

3. Universal concentrates

Cereals such as oats, barley and corn are beneficial for all livestock. Molasses and apple cider vinegar are also healthy concentrates for all farm animals.

If you have animals that share a pen, or if you’re hoping to buy in bulk and feed all of your animals, avoid pellet foods and stick to the basics. These concentrates are forages that have been part of healthy animal care for centuries.

Oils are also commonly added to concentrates to increase fat and help a slow animal gain weight. In moderate doses, the oils are also safe for most farm animals. Seed oils like cottonseed, sunflower, and soybean oil are the most common.

Forages to avoid

Look for the freshest forage you can find. When choosing hay, choose heavy, green, leafy bales. Avoid any forage with mold, mildew or insect damage. The better your forage, the less concentrate your animals will need.

In the past, ground animal meal was often added to commercial concentrates. Bone meal or ground meat was added to fodder even for herbivores like sheep and cattle. This cake was used to increase the protein content of animal feed.

But, this practice has been banned now due to Mad Cow Disease (BSE). Animal products ground into pet food can contain prion contamination and harm your animals.

These days, if you buy animal feed, your animals are probably safe from feed contaminated with animal meal. But, sometimes, helpful neighbors encourage us to “try that old trick” to put weight on reluctant feeders. Be aware that if this “trick” involves animal meal or meat in your filling, it is not a safe option.

Milk, mealworms, insects, eggs, and other animal products are great options for omnivorous animals like pigs and chickens. My ducks love to catch all the slugs in the garden. But don’t give your animals anything that can be made from other animals of the same species.

Avoid giving pork in general – stick to dairy and eggs as animal product supplements. And don’t let your animals cannibalize any of their own – remove any dead or dying animals as soon as possible.

Protect your animals with healthy, nutritious fodder and avoid an easy way out of a difficult situation.

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