Grow more forage

Get financial incentives to convert your cultivated land to hay or pasture. DUC has helped hundreds of Manitoba farmers establish over 37,000 acres of forages since 2014. DUC’s Forage Program is science-backed and field tested.

Congratulations to our Top 5 Forage Establishment winners for 2023! Five farms shared $10,000 in prize money (read more).

cover of Forage program pamphlet

Click above to enlarge or download program details

DUC’s forage program is a popular way to solve your lack of quality feed. Receive $125/acre to convert cultivated land to hay or pasture. Prizes awarded to the top five establishments.

Am I eligible?

Connect with DUC about program eligibility:

Alex Griffiths

Top 5 Forage Establishments

Each year, DUC selects the top establishments in the Forage Program based upon the highest plant density and plant height, forage diversity and lack of weeds. Winners receive cash prizes.

Anna and Haydn Donohoe
Malarky Farms Ltd
Basswood MB

“The land is near the dairy so there had been many years of liquid manure spread over the acres. We planted it shallower than we have in the past. This year there were a lot of weeds. Good thing cows like weeds! Also getting moisture was a blessing! We are excited to graze it with our milking herd this upcoming summer.”
Anna, Mark and Hadyn Donohoe accepting award for Top 5 Forage Establishment from Ducks Unlimited Canada.
Steven Sawchuk
Rossburn MB

“My recipe to a very successful forage establishment is pretty simple. First, start with your cleanest field to grow forage, not your dirtiest. Seed heavy and fertilize even heavier. I also sprayed my field with a herbicide to control very low weed computation that I thought might occur.”
Steven Sawchuk and family accepting award for Top 5 Forage Establishment from Ducks Unlimited Canada.
David Collier
Jim Lane Ltd
Birtle MB

“The forage establishment was put in mid-May with 45 pounds of phosphate with the forage seed. The forage was trimmed off with the haybine at the start of July and again in August. This allowed the forage to take over any weeds that were present. We have had good luck in the past with establishing forage crops by following these same steps.”
Dave and Tina Collier accepting award for Top 5 Forage Establishment from Ducks Unlimited Canada.
Gerald Wildfang
Manasseh Fleckvieh Angus Farm
St. Claude MB

“I took back this land after renting it out and I wanted to put it to forage, not cropland. I used an ordinary seeder – not an air seeder – and it worked out fine. I was also in a good pocket for rain. I used a custom seed blend with 13 different types of grasses from a local retailer and added alfalfa. I planted the beginning of June and took 12 tonnes of silage off in July. Went into the fall with over two feet standing and just left it.”
Gerald Wildfang accepting award for Top 5 Forage Establishment from Ducks Unlimited Canada.
Kevin Bridgeman
K & J Bridgeman Farms Ltd
Binscarth MB

“The 70 acres we put down to forage had been crop land for years. The planning started prior to the crop year to ensure the land would be ready to grow forage. Livestock manure had been spread the year before so we did a light cultivation over these hard-packed areas. We chose to spray with Roundup prior to seeding. Fertilizer was spread with a coulter at a rate of 10 lbs of potash, 70 lbs of urea and 20 lbs of phosphate. We shallow seeded with a Bourgault air seeder with minimum soil disturbance at about 12.5 pounds per acre. Then it rained. The rains have to be at the right time and sufficient to get the crop started and to keep it growing through the season.”
Kevin and Julie Bridgeman accepting award for Top 5 Forage Establishment from Ducks Unlimited Canada.

DUC Forage Program – video tips

cover page of document providing tips for establishing forages.

Click above to download or print tip sheet

More tips for forage success

  1. Seed early – get on the field as soon as possible after the risk of spring frost is over. Take advantage of cool, moist growing conditions. Summer heat and fewer rain events can bake newly emerging seedlings, resulting in plant death and a thinner stand. Ideal timing for most areas of Manitoba is May long weekend.
  2. Apply Phosphate (P) – 30 lbs/acre applied with the seed can increase seedling size by 4X compared to fields where no P is applied. Blend P directly with the forage seed and then seed as a mix. There are no bridging issues and the mix can easily be seeded with any air seeder through the fertilizer roller.
  3. Say ‘no’ to companion crops – they compete with forage and can negatively impact establishment. If a companion crop is used, seed at NO MORE THAN 1/3 of a full seeding rate. With no cover crop, the stand is likely to emerge with weeds but this is easily managed through haying.
  4. Seed heavy – a minimum of 12lbs/acre is recommended to protect against loss from excess heat, moisture or winterkill. If dormant seeding, broadcast seeding or using an excessive rate of cover crop, increase forage seeding rate by at least 30%. Healthy plant populations produce a more vigorous stand with greater longevity.
  5. Seed shallow – forages should be seeded no deeper than 3/4”. Do not attempt to chase moisture by planting deeper, even in dry conditions. Small seeds need to be close to the soil surface for seedlings to emerge. Seeding deeper reduces plant counts in new establishments.
  6. Use an air seeder/seed drill if possible – broadcast seeding is convenient but seeding depth varies and success depends largely on adequate rainfall. Seed near the surface faces hotter conditions which can prevent establishment. A seed drill optimizes seed-to-soil contact and ensures the crop is planted at a uniform depth.
  7. Seed is important – seed multiple species to ensure at least one type of plant grows in all areas of the field under varying conditions. Certified seed ensures good germination and minimal weed seeds. Some seed companies also offer establishment guarantees for their product. Ask your retailer for details.
  8. Seed coating – some seed companies coat their forage seed to help it flow more easily through air seeders. This coating can add significant weight to the seed, which means a 50 lb bag does not contain 50 lbs of seed. Adjust seeding rates to accomodate and seed heavy if using coated seed.
  9. Limit competition – preseeding weed control is essential to clean the field for optimal establishment. Ensure that chemicals will not leave residual effects on the species being planted. Cut the field early in the establishment year to prevent weeds from setting seed and to reduce competition with the forage planting.
  10. Remove the crop as silage – swaths can hinder seedling growth and – in extreme cases – kill all the plants underneath, leaving blank or thin strips. Best practice in the establishment year is to chop or round bale silage to prevent swaths from laying in the field for extended periods.
  11. Cutting precautions – do not cut below 4”-6” to ensure plant residual regrows before freeze-up. Do not take a second cut in the establishment year. Cutting alfalfa five to six weeks before killing frost depletes root reserves, stresses new seedlings and may thin the crop and decrease stand longevity.
  12. Do not graze in the year of establishment – although the stand may look thick and lush, the root systems are still developing and may not be fully anchoring the plant into the soil. Grazing animals can pull out the entire plant, causing stand thinning and decreased longevity.
  13. Insure your crop – Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) offers Forage Establishment Insurance with an application deadline of March 31 in the seeding year.