Selecting the proper forage for particular sites and uses is now possible through an online tool called Forage U-Pick.
The Saskatchewan Forage Council launched the tool in early June. It offers updated information on different forages, seeding rates and weed management for Western Canada.
Project manager Julie MacKenzie said forages have changed since the council introduced its first forage selection tool 12 years ago.
“Green wheatgrass was new then,” she pointed out. “Hybrid brome was relatively new. We’ve learned a lot more about them since then.”
The new tool is mobile-friendly and encompasses all four western provinces.
MacKenzie said forage growers haven’t always been pointed toward the most suitable selection but the tool allows them to enter specific information and come up with the best choice.
“We know that forage production is a huge thing when it comes to better economic returns for beef production,” she said.
The selected forage has to establish well, yield well and provide the grazing days producers require.
MacKenzie said producers don’t generally seed forages every year and often seed them for a particular situation. For example, grain growers may plant a forage in a saline spot.
“Seeding saline areas to forages is a good agronomic practice,” she said.
In other areas, acidity or erosion are issues. In the Peace River region, where it has been too wet to seed crops, growers may look to forages as an option.
The Forage U-Pick was designed to be user friendly and intuitive, MacKenzie said.
The Forages Suited to My Field area allows users to select their province and soil zone and offers a list of species suitable for that area. It will ask what the producer intends to use the forage for and for how long.
Each selection comes with a photograph and information about each species.
Then, the Seeding Rate Calculator matches the selection to seeding rate. It will calculate how much of each type of grass a producer will want in a blend so not everything is necessarily seeded at the same rate.
And the Forage Weed Management part of the tool gives information on how to succeed with proper weed control.
MacKenzie said producers can choose options and blends for spring pastures or fall grazing, and it will advise on regrowth for those who rotationally graze. The developers worked with agrologists to formulate seed mixtures for different areas.
She said it is a starting point for producers to make decisions. Just a few days after the tool had launched, analysis showed that 510 unique users had already visited for 700 sessions.
“We know based on the fact that they’re still getting on the old tool that this tool will be well received,” MacKenzie said.