Orchardgrass & Tall Fescue. It's what's for Dinner!
Dec 13, 2009
If you’re a hay grower, marketer or Broker, you know that “Grass Farmers” try to cater primarily to the Horse Market. WHY? Because Horse Owners are VERY finicky when it comes to feeding hay to their investments (their horses).
Orchardgrass is highly desired by horses owners because of it’s digestible fiber. And because of the high digestibility, It’s very palatable. So why not interseed orchardgrass into your hay and pastures that your BEEF or Dairy cattle are on?
It has a very fast establishment period, it grows vigorously, it withstands heavy/frequent cutting for hay production, has quick re-growth and most importantly IT HELPS ALFALFA CURE/DRY FASTER! And after this past season, I bet all of us (except those of you in TEXAS), could have used some help in the dry-down portion of your hay making process. Parts of the Southeast have received more than 150% of their historical averages for moisture this past June, July & August, which is the busiest hay making time of the year wherever you live.
On our farm, we have a custom hay mix of Orchardgrass, Timothy, Alfalfa, Red & White Clover. The longest we had to wait between mowing and bailing (small square bales), this past summer was 5 day’s. The orchardgrass was assisted somewhat by the endophyte-free tall fescue, but we would have never gotten any rain-free hay in our barn, if it weren’t for the orchardgrass which makes up 25% of our hay mix.
Our rotational pastures consist of endophyte-free tall fescue, orchardgrass, perennial ryegrass, alfalfa (sunken crown), red & white clover, and timothy. That mix wouldn’t be conducive for making hay (trust me, I’ve tried), because it takes FOREVER to dry if you use a roll-bar style rake like we do. If you normally take off a 1st cutting of your pastures prior to turning out your cattle for the season, you will want to re-calculate your proportions of seed percentages so it’s conducive to making dry hay. On the other hand, if you’re making haylage or baleage, the prior mentioned mix would work fine.
Why TALL Fescue?
Most horse owners will not feed hay with fescue in it. But if you can prove to them that it’s “Endophyte-Free”, that is a huge advantage you will have over your competitor/hay marketer.
Endophyte-free tall fescue offers High NDFd. If you’re a Grass-fed Dairy operation, studies show that you can PRODUCE MORE MILK per ton feeding tall fescue than alfalfa! It has a large deep root system for areas that are prone to drought but at the same time it grows well in wetter/poor draining areas like here in Bradford County, PA. There are also new, softer leaf varieties to help with palatability and digestibility. And it grows well with alfalfa.