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M181, Dairy Grazing: Selecting the Right Forage

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Dairy Grazing: Selecting the Right Forage

Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.)

Warm-season grasses

This perennial warm-season grass is used for forage and erosion control in the warmer portions of the United States, including the southern third of Missouri. In southern Missouri, annual forage yields in the 10,000 lb/acre range are possible with good management. Under typical management, bermudagrass is of moderate quality for both hay and pasture uses. However, forage quality and yield can be excellent if bermudagrass is well fertilized with nitrogen and frequently grazed or harvested. Bermudagrass has some limitations. Because it must be established from vegetative sprigs, it is sometimes difficult to establish. Producers must take care to control weeds during establishment. Once established, bermudagrass is aggressive and can crowd out other species, which also makes it a poor choice for wildlife habitat.

Kentucky bluegrassBermudagrass
 

Yield distributionYield distribution of Bermudagrass in Missouri.
 

Seed head
Seed head

Collar region
Collar region

  • Origin: Southeast Africa
  • Adaptation to Missouri: Southern third of state
  • Growth habit: Rhizomatous, stoloniferous, sod-forming perennial.
  • Blade: Folded in bud, sharp tip, smooth or sparsely pubescent, scabrous margins, conspicuous midrib.
  • Sheath: Slightly compressed, split, loose, sparsely pubescent, tuft of hairs at the junction of the blade and sheath.
  • Ligule: Fringe of hairs, 1/10 to 1/5 inch long.
  • Auricles: Absent.
  • Seed head: Panicle with 3 to 7 narrow branches.
  • Fertilization: 50 to 100 lb N/acre mid-May after grass “greens up.” Apply 75 to 100 lb N/acre every 30 days thereafter. Phosphorus and potassium to soil test.
  • Burning management: If needed, in early spring three weeks before the last killing frost.
  • Timing of production: 85 percent of growth between May 15 and Sept. 15. More even yield distribution than most other warm-season grasses.
  • When to begin grazing: When grass is 6 inches tall.
  • When to cut for hay: June 1 and every 28 days thereafter.
  • Lowest cutting or grazing height: 3 inches
  • Fall management: Do not hay or graze after Sept. 1.

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