Forbs

Forbs are generally defined as herbaceous broadleaf plants, including brassicas and legumes. Forbs exist in pastures and rangelands, contributing to yield, species diversity, nutrients for livestock, and food and habitat for wildlife. Forbs are generally opportunists and are usually not a management objective in temperate regions,[3] although some have important economic niches. Forbs may be annual, biannual, or perennial. Most of the naturally occurring poisonous plants are forbs.[4] They differ greatly in palatability and nutritive value.

The Asteraceae family is the largest plant family of forbs. It contains over 1500 genera with more than 19,000 species. These species include aster, dandelion, chicory (Cichorium intybus L.), artichoke, and sunflower. Another class of forbs, the Cruciferae, or mustard family, has about 300 genera and 3000 species, including turnip and kale. A few of these species are economically important in the United States.

Chicory is a perennial herb of the family Asteraceae that shows potential for use in grazing. Chicory produces leafy growth that can be higher in nutritive value than alfalfa if properly managed. Chicory has a relatively deep taproot, which makes it drought-tolerant. It requires nitrogen fertilization for maximum yield.

Brassicas are annual crops with high digestibility (75 90%) and high crude protein content (18 25%), provided nitrogen fertilization is adequate.[5] Because of high digestibility and very low fiber content, forage brassicas could be considered concentrates rather than forages and should probably be fed as supplements. Unlike that of many other forage crops, the dry matter digestibility of brassicas does not decrease markedly with advancing maturity. They can be used as insurance against summer drought or to extend the grazing season into November and December. Intensive management is necessary to prevent stem production, which markedly decreases palatability.[5] Forage brassicas are seldom used for dairy cattle, however, because they can cause an off flavor in milk. Some species can be managed to reduce off flavors in milk, although caution must be used.

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