What Is The Best Grass For Cattle Grazing In Texas?

What Is The Best Grass For Cattle Grazing In Texas?

The quality of the animal fodder you choose to feed livestock can have a significant impact on their health. Texas farmers have a variety of green pasture options to choose from, each with their own unique benefits and characteristics. 

When choosing a suitable grass mix, there are many factors to consider. For example, is it locally available relative to the farm’s location? Does it sufficiently provide the nutrients necessary for cattle? You may want to also consider traits of the grass, such as drought and disease resistance.

High-quality grass is essential for the success of a farm. Let’s go over what you need to know about hay production, as well as common grass cultivar types to help determine the best choice of blend for livestock. 

About hay production

Hay is widely produced in the United States, with Texas in particular being the largest hay-producing state in the country. This is because the state is quite large, with ample land for crop production. Its climate is also ideal because the state gets little rain (precipitation is not necessary for sowing hayseed).

The United States Department of Agriculture reports that Texas farms make over 6 million tonnes of hay each year, with a farmer selling a single bale of hay for around $9 to $10 USD. 

This commodity is transported in the shape of square or large and round bales weighing around 1000 to 1500 pounds each.

Around 78% of hay goes to feedlots. It’s difficult to determine exactly how much hay a cattle herd eats daily, since herds come in all shapes and sizes. However, on average, a single cow can eat approximately 27 to 40 pounds of hay in one day. 

Warm-season vs. cool-season grasses

Forage grass is classified by cool and warm seasons. 

Warm-season grasses

Warm-season grasses grow in the summer, typically from June to early September. These grasses like dry, hot weather and stay green throughout July and August. 49.5 million acres of land is dedicated to warm-season grass, valued at about $1.89 million USD.

Popular varieties include: 

  • Bahiagrass

  • Bermudagrass

  • Bluestens-native

  • Bluestems-old world

  • Buffalograss

  • Buffelgrass

  • Crabgrass

  • Dallisgrass

  • Gamagrass

  • Gramagrass

  • Indiangrass

  • Johnsongrass

  • Kleingrass

  • Lovegrasses

  • Pearl millet

  • Sorghum

  • Sorghum-sudan hybrids 

Warm-season grass tends to have a higher nutrient content than cool-season grasses, making it a great choice for cattle feed. 

However, it requires a lot more work to produce since a specialized seed drill is needed to plant it. While it doesn’t require as much fertilizer, it does require time to germinate (usually about two to three years), making it more expensive on average. It lives a long time and grows to be about 5 to 8 feet tall.

Cool-season grasses

Cool-season grasses grow in spring, fall, and winter when air and soil temperatures are cooler. They have a total annual value of $644,800, taking up 5.4 million acres of farmland.

Typical varieties include: 

  • Annual ryegrass

  • Kentucky bluegrass

  • Tall fescue

  • Texas bluegrass

These grasses are nutrient-dense in the spring and fall, and can be a good source of food for cattle as they green up early in the year. 

They tend to germinate quicker and are inexpensive—however, the downside is that they tend to be of lower quality and only reach about 3 feet in growth. They also live about two years shorter than warm-season grasses. 

Warm and cold-season grasses each have their benefits. Keeping their differences in mind can help determine which type is best suited for cattle grazing. 

Why pasture grass?

Many farmers choose to specifically feed their livestock Texas pasture grass for a number of reasons.

For one, it offers many health benefits. Pasture grass is packed with essential nutrients that keep animals in tip-top shape, as it’s been proven to be beneficial for digestion.

Pasture grass also reduces heat stress for cattle in the summertime by absorbing excess sunlight. When cattle graze, they promote soil health by increasing levels of carbon and nitrogen in the ground.

Plus, pasture grass is an accessible and affordable option for most farmers.  

The top grasses used for cattle grazing in Texas

Not all species of grass grow the same. Let’s dive into the most popular grass species in Texas.

Ryegrass, Bahiagrass, and Bermuda Grass

Ryegrass, Bahiagrass, and Bermuda Grass is a popular grass mixture often used by farmers, as it provides high nutritional value while protecting pastures from erosion.

Ryegrass in particular grows best between September to November, seeded at a rate of over 500,000 acres every year. If demand calls for it, farmers may plant an additional 300,000 acres on prepared seedbeds. Sometimes, it’s mixed with cereal rye to extend seasonality.  

Tall Fescue

Tall Fescue is a warm-season grass that does well in the heat and produces a lot of forage, even during times of drought. Its hardiness allows it to thrive in both wet and dry climates, with its immune tolerance making it resistant to disease.

Tall Fescue is a great choice for large pastures with different types of animals. 

Texas Bluegrass

Texas Bluegrass is a cool-season grass. It has great water and shade retention, and can continue growing during droughts or hot climates. 

Livestock farmers prefer this type of grass because it produces lots of forage.

Kentucky Bluegrass

This perennial grass is widely used in the United States, as it can survive long periods without mowing or irrigation due to its deep root system. It’s a great option to feed livestock since it grows quickly and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.

The biggest drawback is that it doesn’t do well against wear and tear. As a result, it needs to be replaced often. 

Orchard Grass

Orchid Grass is a popular choice because it grows quickly and efficiently. It’s high in energy and protein, making it an excellent option for livestock feed. However, this type of grass requires frequent irrigation and mowing to keep it healthy and growing. 

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