Cocksfoot, Other Grasses


The value of cocksfoot is its ability to persist and be productive in dry, moderately fertile, light and free-draining soils. As an endophyte-free pasture, it can be a good summer pasture for the grazing of sheep, cattle and dry stock (if managed to minimise seedhead development and maintain clover content). It is an option to be considered in areas where ryegrass persistence is unachievable. Cocksfoot exhibits better drought tolerance and improved tolerance to acidic soils, compared with perennial ryegrass and tall fescue. It is best suited to areas of 600 mm+ rainfalls.

Cocksfoot is best sown into warm soils at up to 6-8 kg/ha as the sole grass with clover or 3 kg/ha in mixes with other grasses. It can be established with perennial ryegrass and phalaris, but is less suited to sowing with tall fescue. Cocksfoot is generally very pest tolerant, with pests having a lesser impact on cocksfoot than on perennial ryegrass. Resistance to stripe and stem rust varies with cultivar.

Available cocksfoot cultivars have varying flowering dates, tiller density and size, and winter growth potential. Denser types are more suited to the close and continuous grazing experienced with sheep. Later flowering types will hold quality longer into the spring. Summer dormant varieties will have an improved chance of persisting in summer dry environments.

Prairie Grass

Prairie grass is a large-leaved, large tillered short-lived perennial suitable for specialist 2-4 year high quality, endophyte-free pasture and as a supplementary feed option.

Prairie grass will be most productive in fertile, free-draining soils with a pH above 5.5. It will not tolerate waterlogged conditions, pugging or soil acidity. Generally moisture exceeding 850 mm is required.

For optimum establishment it should be sown into soils where the temperature is above 10°C, at a depth of 5-15 mm. A sowing rate of 25-30 kg/ha for sheep and beef, and 35-55 kg/ha for dairy systems is recommended.

The valuable winter-early spring production and summer quality feed of prairie grass can be utilised during lambing and calving, and for grazing of young stock. Unlike other grasses, the large seedhead is palatable to grazing stock. A lax rotational grazing system is recommended. Prairie grass can be successfully conserved as hay and silage.

From sowing, graze when the plant has 4 tillers. In mid-winter the grazing interval may be 30-35 days, and in early spring it may be shortened to 20-25 days due to the natural spring flush.

Longer grazing intervals during late spring and summer are essential for prairie grass persistence and reseeding. This allows the lower tillers to senesce and form a mat on the soil surface. The idea of a mat is to reduce the soil surface temperatures in summer and to prevent summer grasses and weeds establishing. This mat breaks down towards the end of summer and allows the new prairie grass seedlings to germinate and establish.

Grazing Brome

Grazing brome is a perennial grass, closely related to prairie grass, but with a denser habit of fine tillers ensuring persistence under harsher climatic and grazing conditions. The strong cool season production suits well-drained soils in areas of average minimum 600 mm rainfall.

Grazing brome should be sown at no less than 25-30 kg/ha at a depth of 5-15 mm, directly into a free-draining soil, above 10°C. Where possible, cross drilling and rolling will promote greater ground cover.

Grazing brome is compatible with cocksfoot, clover and herbs.

Production potential is maximised when it is regularly grazed, keeping the plant below 15 cm in height. Grazing brome should not be taken for supplementary feed.

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