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Bermudagrass (Perennial)

This is not a preferred grass for goats but they will eat it. It does very well in the Southeast and in some of the Texas area. It is particularly well adapted to sandy soils and does best in well drained soils. We have clay soil in Northeast Texas and it does good here. It can be grazed or a source for hay. It spreads by underground stems, runners and seed. It generally grows between April and October. It can yield 3-6 tons per acre. It is possible to overseed Bermudagrass with cool season legumes to provide additional browse in the spring. It is common to see clovers or annual rygrass used in combination with Bermudagrass. It can be established quickly. It grows to a height of 15 to 24 inches.

Cowpeas (Annual legume)

This legume does well in hot weather and are an important legume in the southeastern United States, but since 1940 they have been replaced gradually by soybeans, clovers, and other legumes. Referred to as “black-eyed peas,” cowpeas are grown primarily for human consumption but also are suitable for hay, silage, and pasture. Cowpeas are grown on approximately 200,000 acres annually in the United States, with Georgia, California, and Texas accounting for 65% of the total production area. Cowpeas are adapted to a variety of climatic and soil conditions, but they require considerable heat for optimum production. Cowpea forage in a study was comparable to alfalfa hay harvested at the late-vegetative to early-bloom stage.

Crabgrass (annual that volunteers readily)

Crabgrass is commonly considered a weed due to its prolific growth rate and spreading morphology. However, crabgrass possesses significant potential to supply high-quality summer forage for grazing livestock in the transition zone between subtropical and temperate regions of the USA. It is well adapted to most soils. Drought tolerant and responds more quickly to rain than many summer grasses. Growth from June through September.  Provides higher quality grass than bermudagrass and has a 5-8% higher digestibility.

 Red River crabgrasswas developed from a “hairy crabgrass” species Digitaria ciliaris at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma. It was named afterthe Red River in southern Oklahoma where the parent plant was discovered (Dalrymple, 1996). Red River crabgrass is a runner grass that spreads by stolons. The plant roots down wherever the stolon joints touch moist soil. It has very competitive regrowth. Stolons can reach 4 feet in length within one regrowth period. It has a prostrate growth behavior under stress but grows erect under desirable conditions. Red River crabgrass can grow over three feet tall. It produces seed sufficiently for volunteer reestablishment.

This crabgrass has an acceptable leaf to stem ratio and is relatively insect and disease free. Red River crabgrass is adapted best for the mild and some temperate areas of the United States. It grows well in the hardiness zones 6 to 10. It thrives in warm weather (80-100F), warm soils, moist conditions, and well-drained soils that do not crack when dry. Crabgrass responds well to nitrogen fertilizer. It has poor tolerance for extremely saline or alkaline soils A hay harvest of crabgrass during the first growth can have 15-20% crude protein and 65-75% digestibility. A desired haying height is 1.5-2 feet tall.

Dallisgrass (Perennial)

Perennial bunchgrass with short rhizomes and a tall ligule. Leaf has sparse hairs at the base and rough edges. Seed head has drooping spikes.  Well adapted to central and southern part of the states. It has a very low seed germination which causes a slow establishment. Planting usually occurs in March or April by broadcasting seed at a rate of 10 to 15 lb/ac at a 1/4-inch depth. Dallisgrass is well adapted to clay and loamy soils. It is very responsive to nitrogen applications. The primary forage utilization is pasture, but can be harvested for hay. Forage production occurs from April to October with yields ranging from 2.5 to 6 tons/ac. It is recommended not to graze at seed head or to clip to eliminate the seed head. Dallisgrass does well in a mixture with white or red clover.  Higher nutritional value than bermudagrass.

Eastern Gamagrass (Perennial)

Native to the eastern U.S This highly productive grass is best adapted to wet habitats; and remnant colonies are commonly found in flood plains and along stream banks. Eastern gamagrass is a relative of field corn  and is characterized by numerous short, well-developed underground stems. It is a tall, erect bunch grass growing from 1-4 feet in diameter. It spreads by underground stems and produces seed between July and September. It requires a rest period from grazing that is critical to the survival of bunch grasses because they rely on carbohydrates stored in the leaf bases for regrowth. If animals are allowed to graze regrowth before carbohydrates can be stored, plants will soon succumb to overgrazing. The loss of natural stands of this highly palatable, productive grass has been attributed to overgrazing.It produces the majority of its growth from mid-April through mid-September. Eastern gamagrass begins growing earlier in the spring than do the other native grasses such as big or switchgrass. It is readily eaten by all types of livestock and the young leaves are 65-72% digestible. One of the major problems associated with eastern gamagrass is difficulty with establishment and poor seed production resulting in high seed cost.

Can yield 4-6 tons per acre

Haygrazer (Annual)

Haygrazers are described as crosses of forage types of sorghum, sorgo, and sudangrasses. Sudan hybrids are described as hybrids or crosses in which at least one parent is a sudan. The other parent may be a grain sorghum, a sweet sorgo, or a sudan. Sorghum X sudan and sorgo X sudan hybrids tend to have coarser stems and broader leaves than the true sudan X sudan hybrids. Common examples of sudan hybrids are Haygrazer, Trudan, Sweet Treat, Sweet Graze, Sudax, and many others. Sudan X sudan hybrids usually produce less than sorghum or sorgo X sudan crosses.

As rainfall and soil moisture decline, coastal bermudagrass will remain green as long as moisture is being replenished from the subsoil, but it will not replace what is grazed with new growth. Since June and July are typically sparse months for rainfall, haygrazers usually grow so rapidly as to stockpile excellent grazing well into the summer months. If more haygrazer is produced than can be used, the field can be divided with a hotwire, and the ungrazed portion can be baled while it is in the boot stage.The highest-quality haygrazers are well fertilized, are produced on deep, well-drained soils for extended moisture supply, and are planted somewhat thicker to decrease stem diameter.

Johnson grass (Perennial)

Livestock producers in the southern Great Plains should not overlook johnsongrass in their pastures. For one thing, under certain conditions it can kill your cattle. Another reason not to overlook johnsongrass is that it is excellent forage - if you can get over the fact that it can kill your cattle!

Positive aspects of Johnsongrass

As far as nutritive value is concerned, johnsongrass is tough to beat. One study conducted at the Noble Foundation from the summer of 1999 to the fall of 2001 showed that the quality, expressed as percent crude protein (% CP), and digestibility, expressed as percent total digestible nutrients (% TDN), of johnsongrass is as good as any of the forages tested. In this study, bermudagrass was neck and neck with johnsongrass in terms of % CP and % TDN. The bermudagrass was a managed stand and was fertilized with 50 to 100 pounds per acre of actual nitrogen. The johnsongrass was unfertilized and unmanaged.

In another Noble Foundation study that was initiated in the summer of 2007 and is ongoing in 2008, the palatability of several warm-season grasses is being evaluated by forage connoisseurs - yearling steers. In the study, three yearling steers have access to plots containing pure stands of 14 different warm-season perennial grasses (both native and introduced). We count the bites of each steer during their morning grazing to determine their preference for a particular grass or grasses.

After one year of data collection consisting of two grazing cycles conducted during the summer of 2007, Johnsongrass came out near the top in this study. Alamo switchgrass was the only other grass in the study that had more bites taken of it than johnsongrass in year one (9,262 versus 6,062, respectively). Preliminary data from the first grazing cycle in 2008 show that johnsongrass is the second most preferred grass in the study this year - second to bermudagrass (5,084 vs. 4,625, respectively). A testament to the preference for johnsongrass by livestock can be seen while driving down the road; pastures that are continually grazed generally won't have any johnsongrass, but you will see it all along the roadside - out of reach of the fenced-in cattle.

Negative aspects of johnsongrass

Johnsongrass is on the noxious weed list in several U.S. states (including Oklahoma) and has even made the list of the 10 most noxious weeds in the world. Johnsongrass can accumulate nitrates during the summer if exposed to several dry, cloudy days in a row. It can also produce prussic acid (hydrogen cyanide) after stressful conditions such as drought, freezing weather or exposure to a herbicide that kills grasses. If your Johnsongrass is subjected to any of these conditions, keep cattle away for about a week to allow the prussic acid to dissipate.

Pearmillet (Annual)

Adapted to most medium or well drained soils except deep, sandy soils.  Pearmillet is superior to sudangrass and sorghum-sudan hybrids in sandy soil. It is an erect plant with more leafy than sorghum-sudan hybrids. It does not produce prussic acid like the hybrids can do.  It can grow between 3- 8 feet tall according to the variety grown. It grows between May and October similar to Haygrazer. It is 60-65% digestible. It is recommended to only graze it for 1-3 days at a time grazing at a height of 14-24 inches down to a 6 inch stem. Unlike Sorghums, Pearl Millet does not produce prussic acid. Nitrate poisoning has not found to be a problem unless nitrogen rates are in excess of 250 kilograms/hectare (225 pounds/acre). Conditions for Nitrate poisoning and formation of toxic silo gas is only a problem when under a combination of abnormal growing conditions such as:

High N fertilization caused by heavy N or manure applications or following legume plowdown

Prolonged drought followed by rain

Any condition which kills the leaves while the roots and stems remain active, will initiate the accumulation of nitrates (frost, hail, grazing and trampling, or sometimes drought and overcast weather).

Sericea Lespedeza (Perennial legume)

Grown throughout the Southeast and does the best on medium to well-drained clay to sandy loam pastures. It can do well in eroded areas and shallow soils. It has a reputation for growing in poor, droughty areas. It is an erect, deep-rooted legume growing 3-6 feet tall that can survive for many years. It has slow growth to start with only 6-12 inches for the first year. It does not spread by stems or runners. New growth after grazing comes from buds on the stubs. Growth period is between April and November. If not grazed or cut, it will produce a seed crop in the late summer and fall. Pastures need to be well prepared for seeding because it does not compete well with other plants and grasses. Digestibility is 50-55%. Growth after 24 inches becomes woody, stemmy and high in fiber. One of the main reasons goat breeders are interested in Sericea Lespedeza is because of its Tannins that have been shown to help reduce worm problems.

Soybean (Annual legume)

 Can be used for high quality grazing or hay. It does best in  in well-drained soils and can withstand drought. Growing season is between July and September. It is recommended that it be grazed in 1-3 day periods to allow regrowth on the plant.

Crude protein 25-30%

Can yield 2-3 tons per acre

Switchgrass (Perennial)

Grows best on well-drained soils with good amounts of moisture. Switchgrass is a long term perennial living as long as  15 years. It is an erect, bunch-type grass. It is ready for grazing several weeks earlier than Coastal Bermuda. The peak production months are May to July. It has weak seedling vigor. It is a high quality grass with 70-78% digestibility. Switchgrass will not accommodate as high of stocking rate as Coastal Bermuda. Slow seedling establishment has previously limited adoption of switchgrass in forage production.