The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Inc.

Horse Forage and Forage Management: Sorghum Grasses, Sudangrasses and Millets

The sorghum grasses and sudangrasses are not generally recommended for horses and include sudangrass, johnsongrass, sorghum hybrids, and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids. All of these grasses are excellent from a general forage quality viewpoint, however. They can produce massive amounts of forage. All of them require excellent rotational grazing, mowing for residue control, and fertilization for good yields.

If these forages are needed in emergencies, use caution when letting horses graze them. The sorghum-sudangrass can cause cystitis, or ataxia syndrome, a horse health problem. They also develop prussic acid. Refer to "Poisonous Plant Considerations."

The millets include German and pearl. German millet, also called foxtail millet, can be used for short-season emergency grazing or hay. Regrowth is negligible afterward. Pearl and German millet can build up nitrate, which may affect horse health. Refer to "Poisonous Plant Considerations."

All of these sorghums and millet crops require considerable farming, and production is erratic. Grazing management is difficult because of variations in growth, from extremely rapid to very slow or none.

Weeping Lovegrass and Annual Lovegrass (Teff)
Weeping lovegrass is the most productive upland sandy-land grass for our region. Its green season surpasses that of bermudagrass by one to two months per season. It can be integrated into the horse pastures to advantage.

Weeping lovegrass requires haying or definite rotational grazing for best results. It will not tolerate long-term short grazing, especially during fall. It is best to use it with other pasture types.

Weeping lovegrass can make excellent-quality hay with higher fiber content. Weeping lovegrass should be only a minor percentage of forage acreage because of its rapid growth and intensive use demands. One acre per ten to twenty horses may be sufficient when other forages are available.

Teff is the common name for an annual lovegrass that has been largely overlooked in the Southern Plains. It produces well in Oklahoma and has excellent seedling vigor and good production and quality. It is used for horse hay in South Africa and Europe, and its palatability and quality rival that of the best of the grass hays. The only known variety in the United States is 'Dessie' summer lovegrass. Seed sources are uncommon, but the variety is available from Geertsons Seed Farms, Adrian, Oregon.

Other Grasses
Dallisgrass offers some use in far southeastern Oklahoma and other similar areas. Numerous volunteer annual grasses, broadleaf signalgrass, barnyardgrass, and cupgrass can be used as crabgrass is used. Dallisgrass can be infested with poisonous ergot fungus in the seed-head stage. Refer to "Poisonous Plant Considerations."