GALENA, Mo. — May is a good time to be converting to a warm-season grass in cattle forage operations according to Tim Schnakenberg, agronomy specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
Bermudagrass fills the summer gap for both hay and grazing. Missouri producers would do well to convert much of their hay operation to a warm season grass and focus on grazing their fescue.
“I think the best fit for Bermudagrass is to hay the first growth, then graze it the remainder of the summer,” said Schnakenberg.
Another approach is to dedicate some Bermuda fields to haying all summer.
“You can almost take another harvest off of bermudagrass every 30 days if needed. Tonnage produced can be astounding if water and fertility are not limited,” said Schnakenberg.
The practice of harvesting fescue hay does not always match up well with the climate of Missouri. It is important, according to Schnakenberg, for producers to do their homework on variety selection. Winterhardiness and tonnage are important factors to consider in Missouri.
Recent Arkansas variety data has found that sprigged varieties are higher yielding than seeded varieties.
The cost of establishment is much higher for sprigged varieties, however. Seeded varieties still produce great yield even in comparison to fescue.
Producers of bermudagrass often find that hay yields can easily double that of fescue, even though the growing season is much shorter. Seeding or sprigging should be done in May if possible. No-tilling seed is an option if the drill has sharp coulters and lots of weight. It’s important not to plant too deep.
“Bermudagrass is a paradigm change for most producers north of the Mason-Dixon line, but most producers I know who try it are satisfied, and for many producers, it will complement their fescue operation very well,” said Schnakenberg.
For more information, contact any of these MU Extension agronomy specialists in southwest Missouri: Tim Schnakenberg in Stone County, (417) 357-6812; Jill Scheidt in Barton County, (417) 682-3579 and Sarah Kenyon in Howell County, (417) 256-2391.
— Tim Schnakenberg, University of Missouri Extension
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