This review considers the current status and future opportunities for biotechnology in the improvement of forages. It concentrates on temperate forages, although potential applications extend across the full range of livestock systems. The review summarizes progress in genome analysis, mapping, marker-assisted selection, introgression and transformation in both grasses and legumes. In general, there has been substantial 'proof of principle' for all these approaches, and novel varieties are in development. The application of these approaches has coincided with increased knowledgeof the factors affecting forage quality, and the expectation is that the focus of forage improvement will shift in concert with the implementation of biotechnology.