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Horse Forage and Forage Management

Grass Mixtures from a Summer Grass Base

By R.L. Dalrymple
and Charles Griffith

Posted Jan. 1, 2000

Several grass mixtures offer pasture advantages. A major point is that, to maintain them, grass mixtures require more control of grazing timing and intensity than pure stands do. The mixtures may require more haying and mowing management to eliminate uneven residue heights caused by lack of uniform grazing.

Bermudagrass-Crabgrass Mixtures

Crabgrass can be successfully overseeded in new bermudagrass plantings. It provides early, quick cover and high-quality pasture. The crabgrass should be used during the first summer as grazing or hay, which will control its growth and let bermudagrass establish.

The second year, crabgrass production is strongly reduced without winter tillage, so bermudagrass continues to grow and produce the second and successive years. This mixture often happens without planning, but it can be used by design. The mixtures perform better with soil disturbance, good nitrogen input, rotational grazing, and good moisture.

Bermudagrass-Weeping Lovegrass Mixtures

Weeping lovegrass offers earlier first-year forage, earlier and later green pasture after establishment, higher overall production, and better adaptation to some soil sites.

Bermudagrass offers better soil cover, higher-quality forage from mid to late summer, and better adaptation to fine textured, wet, alkaline, and shallow soils. Bermudagrass also is more tolerant of short grazing or frequent haying, and it will rapidly dominate under those conditions.

Should a severe winter weaken weeping lovegrass, bermudagrass rapidly covers the area via overwintered rhizomes. This mixture should be hayed or mowed periodically to about 4 to 5 inches tall to control growth of weeping lovegrass and induce a more uniform residue height.

Bermudagrass-Old World Bluestem Mixtures

We were able to keep a good mixture of 'Midland' bermudagrass and 'Plains' bluestem for four years by managing for a tall overstory of 'Plains' bluestem. The area was either grazed or hayed two to three times per year after 'Plains' reached about knee high, and it reverted to pure bermudagrass in one season when its use was converted to a paddock grazed continually.

'Plains' bluestem offers the advantages of earlier development and rapid cover after planting. It has better forage quality and production after establishment and better adaptation to some finetextured soils. Bermudagrass offers better soil cover and resistance to use.

Bermudagrass-Fescue Mixtures

Fescue, in fescue areas, is an excellent addition to a bermudagrass base. These mixtures can be maintained long term.

Fescue offers green fall, winter, and early spring pasture and the ability to grow better on wet soil, while bermudagrass offers good spring to fall pasture and better soil cover. Both grasses are adapted to slightly different soils, so they work well in mixed soils. The mixture will produce more total pasture annually than either grass alone and is among the best grass mixtures available where both species can grow well.

When fescue is planted for brood mares, the endophyte-free (fungus-free) or novell endophyte type should be selected over endophytic varieties. However, these varieties are less tolerant of bermudagrass competition, so the mixtures are sometimes rather short lived. Refer to the fescue information for more specifics.

Old World Bluestem-Weeping Lovegrass Mixtures

These mixtures have been used some by beef cattle and should be good for well-controlled grazing by horses. The advantages are much the same as for bermudagrass-weeping lovegrass mixtures, except for the lack of good soil cover attributed to bermudagrass. Weeping lovegrass usually dominates.

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