Dairy Grazing: Selecting the Right Forage
Smooth bromegrass is a cool-season grass often used for hay, pasture, silage, green chop and erosion control. Its responsiveness to nitrogen fertilizer, ability to grow well with legumes, good drought-tolerance and excellent overwintering capacity make it important throughout the northern United States. Although Missouri is on the southern edge of its range, smooth bromegrass still provides a valuable resource for many farmers. Smooth bromegrass can easily suffer from overgrazing and does not regrow as well as other cool-season grasses. It is important to avoid clipping or grazing smooth bromegrass shorter than 4 inches. Fields clipped or grazed shorter than this do not regrow well or persist very long.
Yield distribution of smooth bromegrass in Missouri.
- Origin: Eastern Europe
- Adaptation to Missouri: Especially good in northern Missouri
- Growth habit: Rhizomatous, sod-forming, perennial.
- Blade: Rolled in bud, flat and narrow, tapers to tip, smooth on top, distinct “W” at midpoint of leaf, dull on lower side, margins smooth to rough.
- Sheath: Round, smooth, closed near top, lower sheath pubescent.
- Ligule: Membranous, truncate to rounded, 1/10 inch.
- Auricles: Absent.
- Seed head: Open drooping panicle, often one-sided, spreading.
- Fertilization: 30 to 40 lb N/acre following the first grazing or harvest in spring. In addition, apply 40 to 60 lb N/acre in mid-August for fall pasture. Phosphorus and potassium as needed.
- Timing of production: 80 percent of growth before June 15.
- When to begin grazing: When the grass reaches 8 inches in height.
- When to cut for hay: Early heading stage, typically about mid-May.
- Lowest cutting or grazing height: 4 inches
- Fall management: Light grazing or haying possible through October if a 6-inch stubble is left for winter.