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Cool-season grass study gives producers options for future hay production

Written by Heather Loraas

Sheridan – A study at the University of Wyoming Sheridan Research and Extension Center (ShREC) aims to evaluate late spring and early summer yields for perennial cool-season grass hay, using full and 50 percent reduced irrigation.

The “Perennial Cool-Season Grasses for Hay Production and Fall Grazing Under Full and Limited Irrigation” study also evaluated regrowth yields under the same irrigation standards, as well as forage quality for hay and regrowth yields.

The purpose of the study was to give producers more grass hay options by determining if there are other cool-season grasses that will grow and produce well in Wyoming, says Blaine Horn, University of Wyoming Extension Johnson County coordinator.

“The study gives producers more options for grass hay production, depending on operational needs and what the hay is produced for,” he states.

Later-maturing and more water-efficient grasses are the main factors the study analyzed.

“Later-maturing grasses are important for hay quality because, as a plant matures, quality decreases. Finding grasses that will mature later but still maintain quality will increase the production of high-quality hay,” Horn adds.

Process

Two varieties each of smooth brome, meadow brome, orchard, tall fescue, intermediate wheatgrass, pubescent wheatgrass and timothy were used in the study.

“In September 2014, all the grasses were seeded into separate plots with eight sections, four sections under full irrigation and four sections under 50 percent irrigation, from June 2016 to mid-Sept 2016,” explains Horn.

Dry matter yields were assessed at the beginning and end of June 2016. All plots were harvested at the beginning of July 2016.

For another three months, the grass forage regrew before being harvested in October 2016, and the material was sent for nutrient analysis.

Results

According to the 2017 Wyoming Agriculture Experiment Station Field (WAES) Bulletin, in the “Perennial Cool-Season Grasses for Hay Production and Fall Grazing Under Full and Limited Irrigation” study, there wasn’t a difference in dry matter yields between the full and limited irrigation levels.

“Some of the intermediate and pubescent wheatgrasses mature later and don’t need harvested as early, so the intermediate and pubescent wheatgrasses might be a better fit for operations around the state,” states Horn.

The study also showed irrigation can be reduced using the tested grasses.

“There weren’t any yield differences between the two irrigations levels with regards to hay production in late spring and early summer or fall regrowth,” explains Horn.

Producers in Wyoming

For producers, the most important aspect of grass hay is quality, whether the hay is sold or used on a producer’s operation.

“Producers need grasses that provide high yields and are high quality to meet consumer demands. This study helps producers meet consumer demand by providing scientific data on different types of grasses, so producers can pick the best option for their operation,” states Horn.

The study results allow producers to compare yields and quality for different types of grasses for hay production, especially in the northeast and southeast parts of Wyoming, according to Horn.

“A lot of people are curious about other hay options, but they aren’t sure about which ones work the best,” says Horn, adding, “The study gives producers something besides smooth brome and provides other options that may fit their operations better.”

While this study answered many questions and provided good data, it also created more questions to be looked into in future studies, according to Horn.

Heather Loraas is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.