Forage is herbage food, whether green or cured. The forage crops are grasses (whether utilized in meadows, pastures, or otherwise), all coarse natural grazing crops such as animals are likely to find provided in nature, and miscellaneous roots and vegetative parts grown specifically for feeding purposes. They are distinguished from the threshed grains and all manufactured products. It will be seen at once that there are two cultural groups comprised in the class of forage crops, — the group occupying the land for a series of years (meadows and pastures), and the group comprising the annual-grown or biennial-grown plants (as maize, cowpea, pea, millet, roots). These groups overlap, however, so that no hard and fast line can be drawn between them.
The word roughage is applied to the coarser forage products, as maize, cowpeas, kafir; sometimes it is used as equivalent to forage.
Fodder is practically equivalent to the word " forage," but is less specific; it is by some restricted to dried or cured forage. The word is commonly used for the coarser kinds, in distinction from hay.
Some of the leading forage crops are alfalfa, cabbage, the various cereals, clovers, cowpea, kafir, maize or Indian corn, mangels, millet, rape, soybean, sorghum, vetches.
Soiling is the feeding of green harvested forage direct from the field to the animals. The feed is carried to them. This system is distinguished from pasturing. The animals are kept in small inclosures or in stalls, and thereby their feed is regulated and the standing crop is not injured by them. The term is probably derived from that use or origin of the verb " to soil" that indicates to satisfy or to fill.
A species of pasturing is sometimes known as soiling. By means of movable fences, the animals are allowed to graze a part of the crop clean and then to move on at the next feeding to fresh foraging. This use of the term is allowable, since the object is the same, — to supply the animal with a given amount of succulent food; the animal does the harvesting. This practice may be known as pasture soiling.
It would not do to allow animals to roam at will and to gorge themselves in such crops as maize, growing grain, heavy alfalfa, clover, or cowpeas; consequently the animals are soiled on these crops in one way or another.
Silage is green or uncured forage that is preserved, or ensiled, in a tight receptacle or silo (see Chap. XXV). The following crops have at various times been recommended for ensiling: corn, clovers, alfalfa, meadow-grasses, cowpeas, soybeans, Canada field peas, sorghum, sunflower, millet, apple pomace, beet pulp, canning house refuse.