Cool Season Grasses
Cool season grasses are often the backbone on many forage based systems. At CISCO, we sell cool season grasses by themselves or blend them into a specific forage mix. Below is a list of commonly used cool season grasses.
Festulolium is a hybrid cross between a ryegrass (either perennial, annual, or Italian) and meadow or tall fescue.
Festulolium is quick to establish, palatable, and high in sugar content. It is mainly utilized for grazing and stockpiling,
either in mixes or pure stands. Silage and green chop are other major uses.
Planting an improved variety gives the producer a high-yielding forage that will last for years. Festulolium has good drought tolerance, but poor shade tolerance.
35-40 lbs./acre alone
3-15 lbs./acre in a mix
Perseus is a cross between Italian ryegrass and meadow fescue which belongs to the ryegrass type of festulolium. It offers vigorous growth in spring and after each cutting; it is very persistent.
Italian ryegrass is a very high energy, short rotation grass that can be used a couple of different ways on the farm.
It is best seeded in the spring at 25-30 lbs/A. It will remain vegetative the seeding year and produce a large volume of high quality forage. It can be grazed or harvested as some type of ensiled hay.
Due to the waxy leaves, high moisture content, and volume of material, dry hay is not recommended.
Italian ryegrass requires nitrogen to be productive. It is recommended to put 50 lbs/A of N on for the first harvest and an additional 30-50 lbs/A for each subsequent harvest.
Once Italian ryegrass overwinters, it will want to produce a seed head. Most producers will take an early spring harvest (before heading) in its second year and then terminate it.
Feast II Italian ryegrass is a great short rotation crop to use to produce dairy quality feed in a short period of time.
Meadow Bromegrass is used for pasture and hay and is highly palatable to all classes of livestock. It is a long lived cool season perennial with short rhizomes.
The Meadow Bromes show a long pubescence on the leaves but that does not cause any palatability or forage quality issues. Meadow Brome has excellent winter hardiness and is very adaptable.
It really performs well under adverse growing conditions and will not persist if under water for extended periods of time. The species responds well to good fertility.
MacBeth Meadow Brome
MacBeth has shorter rhizomes (does not become sod bound), good summer growth, and rapid recovery.
MacBeth is highly palatable to all livestock classes and is an excellent companion for alfalfa. It is also used in wildlife food plots.
It is one of the earliest species to initiate growth in the spring and performs very well during cool conditions. It establishes roots very slowly so avoid grazing too soon. Harvesting for hay during the establishment year is best to eliminate grazing damage.
Meadow fescue is an excellent choice for managed intensive grazing situations and is an equally good choice for hay production where “winter kill” is an issue.
Characteristics of Preval Meadow Fescue
Preval meadow fescue combines good forage yield with improved resistance to diseases. It's known for good winter hardiness as well as summer production. Preval will produce long, wide leaves making it an excellent choice for haying or pasture.
Preval can be used in forage blends to improve summer productivity for grazing or hay production. Like most meadow fescue, Preval has an early spring growth, with a regrowth consisting mainly of leafy shoots. It is suitable for both cutting and grazing. Varieties of meadow fescue tested by the University of Wisconsin have been consistently higher in neutral detergent fiber digestibility than certain tall fescue and orchardgrass varieties.
Meadow fescue is adapted to a wide range of soils and performs well in wetter soils where some species, like orchardgrass, would struggle.
What about endophytes
Although meadow fescues do contain endophytes they show no signs of having detrimental effects on livestock. Meadow fescue endophyte produces only the protective alkaloids that contribute to heat and drought tolerance, while tall fescue endophytes produce both protective and harmful alkaloids.
30-35 lbs./acre as pure stand
10-15 lbs./acre with other grasses
25-30 lbs./acre with legumes
2-3 lbs./acre with new alfalfa seeding
Renovation/overseeding existing fields/pastures
25-30 lbs./acre in a pasture
5-7 lbs./acre in an alfalfa hay field
Method of Seeding
Spring sowing is preferred. Use of a Brillion seeder, a no-till drill or a culti-packer is ideal. Frost seeding and broadcast seeding in
winter, timed with moist soil can work well, especially if the animals are allowed to “hoof” it into the existing pasture. Seed to soil
contact is vital to having a successful stand. Plant ¼” deep. Preval establishes rapidly, but plants should be firmly rooted prior to
Protein content is highly influenced by nitrogen fertility. When available, legume-derived nitrogen is preferred – i.e. use of Legacy
white, or Gallant red clover. If no legume-derived nitrogen is available, apply commercial fertilizer or manure at a rate of 50# N/a
at planting time and approximately every other grazing. If machine harvesting, 50# N/a should be applied at green-up and after
each cutting. Finally, follow soil test recommendations.
Grazing and Harvest Tips
Preval is more palatable then tall fescue so watch for over grazing. Rotational grazing is preferred and will
increase yields and animal performance, as well as ensure stand longevity. Graze at approximately 10-12
inches and remove animals when at 3-4 inches. When grazing Preval, reduce grain levels and consider
adding more fiber to the ration. For high quality hay, harvest at boot stage.
Excellent for rotational grazing
Wide, succulent leaves
Tolerates wet soils
Improved winter hardiness compared to orchardgrass and tall fescue
Tolerates close grazing
Orchardgrass is one of the most popular forage grasses in the Midwest. It produces high quality forage for hay or pastures.
It likes moderately well to well drained soils. It does not tolerate standing water. It is well adapted to most Midwestern farms because of its high yield, drought tolerance, shade tolerance, and winterhardiness.
Orchardgrass really works well with FD 4 alfalfas and/or red clover. There is a wide range of maturity dates and disease packages available in different varieties of orchardgrass. The later maturity orchardgrasses match well with alfalfa and red clover. Some orchardgrasses are more resistant to leaf rusts than others.
It is important to make sure the orchardgrass you choose fits your intended goal(s).
Devour is a high yielding, late maturing orchardgrass that works well for grazing and hay production. It has a great disease package as well as a low set crown. It is very palatable and the name was derived because animals would “devour” it. Devour matures about 5 days later than Profit orchardgrass.
Profit orchardgrass is a high yielding orchardgrass that matures late in the growing season to match well with alfalfa. CISCO chose to supply Profit because of its performance at the University of Kentucky and the excellent rust resistance. Farmers can be sure that their hay or pasture will perform well throughout a hot, humid summer when leaf rust pressure is the highest.
Endurance orchardgrass is a great grazing or hay type orchardgrass. It has significant breeding to develop its low set crown and persistence under high stress harvesting. It is a late maturing type that works well with legumes.
Echelon orchardgrass is a dual purpose orchardgrass that performs well in grazing or hay situations. It is late maturing and works well with alfalfa and clovers. Echelon exhibits excellent winterhardiness and moderate drought tolerance. It really shines in its ability to produce late season growth.
Tekapo is a New Zealand type grazing orchardgrass. It offers a very low set crown that tolerates grazing very well. It is very leafy and palatable. Seed production is low on this orchardgrass. Tekapo exhibits med-late maturity.
Perennial ryegrass is one of the highest energy forage grasses available for silage or pasture. It is one of the highest sugar content cool-season grasses available.
It prefers adequate moisture and good fertility. In the past it has been hit and miss in the Midwest because the perennial ryegrasses of the past have come up short on winterhardiness and drought tolerance. However, with newer selections available, perennial ryegrass has became more adapted to the Midwestern environment.
Tetraploid perennial ryegrasses are generally better yielding and have improved forage quality because they have wider leaves than a diploid perennial ryegrass.
Albion Perennial Ryegrass
Albion perennial ryegrass is our most drought tolerant perennial ryegrass. It was actually selected in Missouri as a replacement for KY-31 tall fescue. In the selection process, drought tolerance and winterhardiness were two of the main traits selected for. In our experience, Albion is as drought tolerant as orchardgrass and is able to survive most winters very well, as long as it is not abused in the fall. It is best suited for rotational grazing or some type of wet forage (silage, haylage, etc.).
Power Perennial Ryegrass
Power perennial ryegrass is another strong performer in the perennial ryegrass lineup. It has been developed to be drought tolerant, late maturing, and have excellent rust resistance.
TetraSweet Perennial Ryegrass
TetraSweet is a tetraploid that provides season long growth with high yields and forage quality. TetraSweet really stands out because of its ability to produce tillers.
Plant improved varieties of Reed canarygrass on your grazing operation for improved animal performance, an earlier start to spring grazing, toleration of wetter soils, and improved performance of forage during extended drought periods. Graze before the boot stage for best forage quality. Reed canarygrass can be mixed with trefoil, clovers, and alfalfa.
Smooth bromegrass is a forage from the past, so to speak. It is a wonderful, palatable, long-lived forage. With the advancement in alfalfa varieties and more frequent cutting schedules, smooth bromegrass no longer matches well with alfalfa.
Smooth bromegrass is a sod forming forage that spreads with rhizomes. It has a deep blue green color and makes very impressive looking hay. It also has a unique characteristic of maintaining forage quality through flowering and seed production.
Smooth bromegrass needs to be on a 45 day rotation between harvests. It is very productive early in the spring and through flowering and will provide good gains for livestock. The subsequent regrowth is slow and yields are reduced as compared to the initial growth.
For the best regrowth it is best to harvest after pollination.
Red clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and hairy vetch all mix well with smooth bromegrass. Smooth bromegrass is very winter hardy and can tolerate moderately well drained soils. It takes more management to keep smooth brome productive, but it should be considered as part of a forage plan.
Tall Fescue is a wonderful, often underutilized, forage grass. It is a sod forming grass that fills in with short rhizomes. It is a very high yielding forage, often comparable to alfalfa in yield.
Tall fescue has received a lot of bad press because of the endophyte infected KY-31. Modern tall fescues are either low endophyte, or beneficial endophyte. The modern fescues also have had substantial breeding work done to improve palatability. The newer varieties are no longer course leaves with sharp edges.
Tall fescue stockpiles very well in the late summer to provide an extended grazing season in early winter. It mixes well with alfalfa and red clover.
Payload Tall Fescue
Payload tall fescue is a variety developed in Indiana. Payload is selected for strong vigor and crown size. It matures a couple of days later than KY-31 tall fescue. Payload has a great disease package to help it reach peak performance. If you are looking to seed a pasture for stockpiling, Payload is a great variety to consider.
Timothy is the oldest cultivated forage grass in North America and is well known for its palatability and winter hardiness. It is an excellent choice for hay for horses.
Timothy grows well in heavy clay soil, but establishes slowly. Timothy makes a good companion for non-vigorous legumes. Lacks drought and heat tolerance. Not tolerant of frequent cutting.
Tuukka was selected with the serious forage producer in mind. Tuukka has superior ratings on a percentage of leaf to stem ratio and has the most desired trait of quick regrowth. Over a wide geographical area Tuukka has shown to provide excellent production of nutritious forage even in
subsequent cuttings when the alfalfa growth is not so overwhelming.
Tops in Leaves - Tuukka exhibits substantially more leaves than stems when compared to other varieties.
Rapid Regrowth - Tuukka has shown very good regrowth after cutting or grazing, even after 1st and 2nd cutting.
High Forage Quality - With quick regrowth and a higher percentage of leaves, Tuukka provides high quality forage for hay or pasture.
Great Seedling Vigor - Tuukka exhibits excellent seedling vigor when compared to other Timothy varieties.
High Yielding - Tuukka performed very well in University trials in Wisconsin and Illinois, averaging 111% more than other improved Timothy varieties.
Tuukka is recommended for hay, grazing, silage or green chop (direct feeding).
When mixed with alfalfa or clovers, Tuukka provides a grass companion that will enhance the quality of the cow’s diet. When seeded alone or with other grasses Tuukka provides excellent forage.
Plant Tuukka at 10-12 lbs. per acre or 2-6 lbs. mixed with other grasses and legumes. If seeding Tuukka with alfalfa in a new seeding (where alfalfa is to be predominant) plant no more than 1 to 1-1/2lbs. per acre. Plant ¼” deep.
Fertilize Tuukka in the early spring to obtain high yields. Most stands will require 80 to 110 lb/ac of nitrogen and between 20 to 40 lbs/ac of phosphate. Timothy also requires high levels of sulfur and potassium for optimum yields. Fertilize according to local recommendations for the yield desired in your individual situation.
Tuukka rates 2-3 days earlier than Climax.
If grazing, graze Tuukka down to about 3-4” after the plant reaches 10-12” in height. This will provide the maximum forage quality and leaf-to-stem ratio. As with any forage, management practices dictate the quality of the forage nearly as much as the genetics of the product. With proper management practices Tuukka should provide high yielding, high quality forage that will result in maximum farmer profitability.