Sunday, December 18, 2022

Cool season grass yields


Dry-matter production by species of cool-season grass.
Data from Wisconsin field trials.

Data normalized to Perennial Ryegrass yields. Perennial Ryegrass is not well adapted to Wisconsin being vulnerable to both drought and winter kill. Yields of Kentucky Bluegrass are probably similar to that of Perennial Ryegrass or perhaps lower.

Shorter grasses are not valued in agriculture because much of the mass of falls beneath the cutter-bar and is not harvested.

Tall Fescue has palatability issues.

Orchard Grass has palatability issues and production is biased toward early part of season.

Smooth Brome is very palatable and very cold-hardy but recovers slowly from cutting and dislikes being grazed below 3" of height.

Timothy is not as productive as SB. Timothy seems to dry-down better than some other grasses which are more likely to mat.

Festulolium is very palatable but is marginally hardy in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Pounds of beef per acre

Some farmers figure that if you are shipping 300 pounds of on-the-hoof beef per acre than you are doing "OK". That would be bringing in a 600 pound steer-calf in the spring and shipping out a 900 pound feeder-calf at the end of the growing season per-acre.

That statement will generate a flood of controversy. Many farmers will point to a field or a year when they doubled that yield. Never-the-less, as a safe, average working number, 300 pounds of beef-per-acre-per-year gain is not a bad working number.

The cynical part of me wonders if the mind-fog of time helped the old-timers forget about the five pounds of corn a day they supplemented or those bales of hay they used (from another field) when a dry spell hit.

 There is a general trend where the lower yielding grasses are more palatable than the higher dry-matter producing grasses. Greater palatability usually leads to better animal performance.

Fred Owen of Ohio once noted that moving his dairy cows from beat-up, tired looking Kentucky Bluegrass to a lush-looking field of Orchard grass always resulted in a drop in milk production, which was counter intuitive. The cows had to work harder to get a belly full of Kentucky Bluegrass but there must have been more nutrition in that grass than in the lush Orchard grass.


  1. Keeping good records can be a harsh reminder of those 5 pounds of corn plus bought hay seasons. But if you learn from good records, you do better season after season.

    A lot of folks are going to be dismayed to discover the Internet "Expert" information and THEIR own growing situation is going to produce a lot less food than they figured.

    That and a bad year is more common than hoped for. There's a reason my German Grandmother kept about two years food set aside.

  2. High producing dairy cows eat about 55 pounds of dry matter. Freds cows were getting full before they were "fed".
    An excellent farmer built new barns, using vac wagons to clean the alleys 2-3 times a day when the cows were at the parlor. He's now putting in alley scrapers that can run more times a day while the cows are in pen. He said they are eating up to 74 pounds dry matter. 30 years he's been breeding for deep belly, open rib holsteins that have the physical body capacity to consume that amount of feed.

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