University of Missouri Extension

M181, New February 2012

Dairy Grazing: Selecting the Right Forage

Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.)

Cool-season grasses

Orchardgrass is a popular grass for pasture, green chop, silage and hay throughout the central part of the eastern United States. The high rainfall, moderate winters and warm summers of southern Missouri make that region an optimal orchardgrass habitat. Under such conditions, orchardgrass both grows and tillers rapidly, which makes it especially useful in early spring pastures. Forage yields of 7,000 to 10,000 lb/acre are not uncommon under good management. Orchardgrass is more drought-tolerant than timothy or Kentucky bluegrass but is not as drought-tolerant as smooth bromegrass or endophyte-infected tall fescue. Orchardgrass does not persist as well as other cool-season grass species because it is susceptible to overgrazing, winter kill and leaf rust. Orchardgrass matures earlier than most other cool-season grasses, which makes early grazing or harvesting a must if high-quality feed is to be obtained. Choosing a variety that matures late can help increase forage quality. It is considered more wildlife friendly than tall fescue.


Yield distributionYield distribution of orchardgrass in Missouriwith differed grazing.

Seed head
Seed head

Collar region
Collar region with membranous ligule

M181 Dairy Grazing: Selecting the Right Forage | University of Missouri Extension

Order publications online at or call toll-free 800-292-0969.

University of Missouri Extension - print indicia