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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Cool Season Perennial Grasses for Hay

Authors
item Jensen, Kevin
item Waldron, Blair
item Robins, Joseph

Submitted to: Alfalfa Improvement Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 15, 2007
Publication Date: February 21, 2007
Citation: Jensen, K.B., Waldron, B.L., Robins, J.G. 2007. Cool Season Perennial Grasses for Hay. Alfalfa Improvement Conference Proceedings. Reno, NV. December 12-13, 2006. pg. 137-146.

Interpretive Summary: The first consideration prior to seeding is to determine the level of management to be imposed (i.e., hay or grazing). Evaluate the following questions before proceeding to plant 1) What are my management goals and 2) Do I have an understanding of soil and species management. Plant maturity is the most important factor affecting animal utilization of harvested hay. During spring and early summer, forage harvested is nutritious, palatable, and exhibits high levels of digestibility and uniform growth. As forage becomes more mature, feed quality declines and plants become more fibrous. Species characteristics are discussed for creeping and Meadow foxtail, crested wheatgrass, intermediate wheatgrass, meadow bromegrass, NewHy - wheatgrass hybrid, orchardgrass, perennial ryegrass, reed canarygrass, smooth bromegrass, tall fescue, tall wheatgrass, and timothy.

Technical Abstract: In order to choose appropriate species or mix of species for hay production, the following questions need to be answered 1) how much available water (annually) and when is it available, 2) soil type (texture, depth, salinity, water table, etc.), 3) soil fertility (nitrogen availability - best determined with a soil test), and 4) management objectives is critical in the planning process. Proper irrigation of pastures requires an understanding of fundamental soil, water, and plant relationships. In addition, irrigation must be coordinated with management practices. For optimum forage production (grass), it is recommended that irrigation take place when approximately 50% of the water has been used or depleted from the root zone. Two factors that influence animal performance are: 1) intake and digestibility and nutrient content. As grasses mature from the vegetative to the reproductive (seed) stage, they become higher in fiber and lower in protein, digestibility, and palatability. Cool-season grasses readily respond to increased nitrogen fertilizer. It is recommended that fertilizer for hay production should be applied in late winter to early spring. Species descriptions, adaptations, and management practices are given for creeping and Meadow foxtail, crested wheatgrass, intermediate wheatgrass, meadow bromegrass, NewHy - wheatgrass hybrid, orchardgrass, perennial ryegrass, reed canarygrass, smooth bromegrass, tall fescue, tall wheatgrass, and timothy.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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