Best Pasture Grass For Feeding Cows

Ranching can involve a range of grasses, so finding a suitable pasture grass can sometimes be challenging. In order to make a ranch operation more productive and efficient, it is important to have an understanding of the common grass types involved in ranching. Some grasses are more common than others, however many can be grazed the same way.

Bermuda Grass

It is a popular grazing crop because of its reliability and low fertilization requirements. Bermuda grass is commonly found throughout the South, and University of Florida foraging expert Glen Burton deems it one of the most effective crops for producing high yields, especially in dairy operations. Also, Bermuda grass is easy to make into hay; this enables many cattle-raising operations to grow it for year round production. Since some varieties perform more efficiently than others, different kinds of cattle-rearing operations might benefit most from specific varieties.

Reed Canary Grass

Reed canary grass grows fast, is relatively easy to find in wetland areas, and can be easily spread in the soil. However, when it becomes too high, it can become less appealing to livestock, and livestock tend to only eat its leaves. For this reason, it is important to graze reed canary grass pastures regularly to avoid this condition. In addition, grazing experts suggest that it could be use the as a hay crop if it grows too tall.


Some experts advise against grazing fescue pastures in the growing season because it could compromise the plant’s ability to survive into the winter. Tallgrass fescue is considered an excellent forage crop and popular in late fall and early winter. Fescue grass results best when used as part of a diverse forage system to help overwinter livestock. It is best if employed together with other forage crops. Some agricultural scientists are working on developing additional summer-dormant varieties of fescue grass.

It is widely known for its ability to adapt to a wide range of climates and for its tolerance of cold, heat, droughts, and shade. Tall fescue, in its native growing zones, offers lawn owners a variety of options for improving the look and quality of their lawns. There are various reasons why this versatile grass may be the best choice for your lawn regardless of where you live.

More About Tall Fescue

Tall fescue is a perennial cool-season turf grass that stands out for its unique growth habits. During the fall, the blades have a dark green colour that is maintained throughout the winter. The blades are very coarse and elegant to the touch. Tall fescue was introduced to the United States in the early 1800s,1 around the time when lawns became fashionable among Early American farmers. At the same time, tall fescue remained limited to agricultural use as pasture grass until the late 1900s, when a wide variety of it known as Kentucky 31 became popular in the turf industry, and became an integral part of Pennington Seed’s success at the time.

Some years ago, many new varieties of tall fescue have been developed, including turf varieties and dwarf varieties. A number of modern varieties have grasses with darker and narrower blades, improved tolerances to heat and cold, and increased tolerances to drought. Penington Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue and its low-maintenance, heat- and drought-tolerant qualities continue to make it a popular choice for lawn owners.

Tall fescue is a cool-season grass which grows most vigorously during the cool spring and fall months. It is well suited to northern lawns and has added value to the transition zone of grass turf, otherwise known as the turfgrass zone. Extending from the Atlantic into the Midwest, this area marks the boundary between cool-season and warm-season grasses in terms of climate. In this challenging area, tall fescue offers greater heat tolerance than other cool-season grasses and greater cold tolerance than warm-season grasses, contributing to beautiful year-round lawns.

Establishment and Interseeding

It is best to plant turf-type tall fescue in Iowa between mid-August and mid-September. Late summer planting is more effective than spring planting since seeds germinate faster in warm soil. The warm days and cool nights provide ideal conditions for seedling growth.

Under favorable conditions, Tall fescue seed germinates in five to ten days. Another option is to seed in early April or early May. Seedlings must reach maturation before hot summer weather, requiring the establishment window to be narrow. Plant seed germination in the spring is slow, especially when the soil temperature is below 50F. Weed competition from annual grasses such as crabgrass also increases in the spring.

More Characteristics of The Tall Fescue

With its extremely extensive root system, Tall fescue can germinate more rapidly than Kentucky bluegrass and establish itself easily from seed.3 These qualities make it more resistant to heat and drought compared to grasses commonly used in northern lawns. Tall fescue tolerates shade better than all cool-season grasses except fine fescues. Unlike several other grasses that spread by above-ground stems and rhizomes, tall fescue is a bunching grass. Despite producing short rhizomes, its spreading capacity is quite limited. It naturally leaves up in clumps, however its primary spread mechanism is through tillers (vertical shoots of the grass plant itself), rather than by horizontal stems. Because of this, tall fescue is easy to contain and maintain out of flower beds, but it has limited ability to self-repair when turf is damaged.

There are few plants that will thrive on clay soil. Tall fescue grass is one such grass that has ample growth capacity for both fertilization and mowing, but does require frequent watering during the summer period. It is suitable for both sunny and partially shaded areas. The plant is available in numerous cultivars, some of which resemble fine fescue but are larger and have wider leaf blades. Tall fescue in lawns stays green throughout the winter, unlike warm season turf varieties. Tall fescue needs little maintenance and requires little fertilization, and it requires little maintenance. Tall fescue is a lawn grass with remarkable drought and heat stress tolerance. It is a coarse-textured, dark green grass with rolled leaves. It tends to spread mainly by seed and grows most in spring and fall. Its roots are widely set. During the spring months, it produces an initial panicle about 3 to 4 inches long with long, lance-like spikelets. Tall fescue grass occurs as a bunch grass and established lawns may eventually die out, requiring spring reseeding. 

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