Important grazing species

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Important Grazing Plant Species

Understanding appropriate plant species for grazing in specific environments increases forage production and quality, encourages animal health, and discourages weed invasion. It protects soil and increases water infiltration rates and soil organic matter content.

Great Plains of North America


Kentucky bluegrass provides good grazing and tolerates
Kentucky bluegrass: The species is highly palatable to horses, cattle, and sheep. It produces relatively low yields compared to other pasture grasses, but can be very productive in the Northeast on closely grazed intensive rotational grazing systems.

trampling but is not highly productive. Overgrazing or undergrazing bluegrass for short periods is not harmful. Because it tolerates trampling and overgrazing, it works well as a component of horse pastures. Keep between a height of 2 and 6 inches. Crude protein can be 20% at maturity.

Sand bluestem (Andropogon hallii) is a native, warm-season grass that grows 3 to 8 feet tall. Leaves grow 8 to 12 inches long. It is adapted to sandy soils and helps bind them with its sod-forming growth habit. Sand bluestem provides good summer grazing and is relished by all classes of livestock. It has only fair palatability in the winter

Meadow brome (Bromus biebersteinii) is a cool-season grass that originated in Southeast Asia. It is a bunchgrass with short rhizomes and grows 24 to 48 inches tall. Meadow brome is adapted to irrigated sites with silt to clay soil. It has some drought tolerance to withstand less than full-season irrigation. Meadow brome establishes rapidly and is more winter hardy than other irrigated grasses like orchardgrass. Meadow brome is a good competitor, but is not as aggressive as smooth brome. It recovers faster than smooth brome from haying or grazing. Meadow brome is highly desired by livestock and wildlife.

Blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) is a native, warm-season grass that is prevalent in the shortgrass prairie. It is a short grass with seed stalks 8 to 24 inches tall, and curly leaves 2 to 6 inches long. Blue grama prefers silt to clay soils and can either grow in bunches or tight sods (i.e. sod-former). It is one of the best drought tolerant grasses and mixes well with buffalograss, sideoats grama, western wheatgrass, and green needlegrass.Blue grama withstands trampling and grazing very well. Because leaves grow short, it is not very productive, but supplies excellent summer or winter pasture feed. Do not graze this grass to less than 2 inches tall. A main reason for its drought tolerance is that it will go dormant with extended dry soil conditions. Because of this self preservation tactic, it recovers from drought better than other grasses.

Crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum) is a cool-season grass that originated in Russia. All but one variety are bunchgrasses and they are adapted to a wide range of soils. All are drought tolerant, some more than others. Crested wheatgrasses provide forage two to three weeks earlier than most other grasses, but become dormant with hot temperatures in early June.Crested wheatgrass is very tolerant of grazing. Graze it during April and May before the grass turns brown in early June. Forage quality is poor from June through August.

Western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) is a cool-season, native sod-former and a major grass on the eastern plains. Western wheatgrass is resistant to grazing and provides good forage from spring through summer. It cures well when standing and can be used for winter grazing. Despite stiff leaves, it rarely becomes coarse enough to prevent sheep from grazing. Like all cool-season grasses, it needs to have an opportunity to regrow after being heavily grazed in the spring. Western wheat will be grazed out with annual, close grazing in the spring.

Russian wildrye (Psathyrostachys juncea) is a cool-season, dryland bunchgrass that originated in central Asia. This grass begins growth two weeks later than crested wheatgrass, but has better fall regrowth and summer availability, if soil moisture is available. Russian wildrye is an excellent dryland pasture grass that is palatable to all livestock. It tolerates close grazing better than most grasses and regrows quickly. A good strategy is to graze lightly in the spring, saving regrowth for late summer and fall when other grasses are not available.

Grazing Grasses Colorado
Comprehensive table of grazing grasses found in Colorado

South American Campos

The South American grassland lies between 24°S and 35°S; it includes parts of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, and all of Uruguay. Grassland -based livestock production is very important, based on the natural grassland that covers most of the area.

Important grass species include Andropogon lateralis, Paspalum notatum and Sporobolus indicus in the Campos region.

Bahiagrass or Paspalum notatum, with proper management, provides fair to good pasture and hay, and can be used in woodland pasture systems (silvopasture). Forage quality depends on soil fertility and grass stage of growth. Bahiagrass hay is leafy, but difficult to make because of bahiagrass’ prostrate growth habit.


The grasslands of eastern Africa are very diverse, with a range of dominant species dependent on rainfall, soil type and management or grazing system. Eastern Africa is renowned as a centre of genetic diversity of tropical grasses and the centre of greatest diversity of cultivated grass species . Over 90 percent of the major cultivated forage grasses have their centre of origin in sub-Saharan Africa and are indigenous to the extensive grasslands of eastern Africa. There are an estimated 1 000 species of grass indigenous to the region, with more than 600 species found in Kenya alone . The wide distribution and adaptability of many of these species across a range of environments and management systems indicates the presence of considerable genetic diversity within the region. This diversity has been exploited to select superior ecotypes for use in many other parts of the world. Brachiaria species, originating from eastern Africa, are the most widely planted forage grass.

Themeda triandra is one of the most widespread grass species in sub-Saharan Africa but it is only the dominant grassland type in central and northern Tanzania. The species is very variable and shows wide adaptation to growth in both the highland regions and the lowland savannas. Themeda, Bothriochloa, Digitaria and Heteropogon mixtures are common in the open dry savannah areas of Tanzania, such as the Serengeti plains. Short tufted ecotypes of Themeda triandra are found at high altitudes and taller more woody types are found in the open lowland savannahs. These vary in palatability, but all types quickly lose palatability with age. Themeda triandra can tolerate light to moderate grazing, and productivity can reach 400 kg/ha/day in the wet season in the Serengeti plains, making them among the most productive grasslands in the world. Plant biomass, quality and species numbers decline in the absence of grazing, are at a peak under moderate to high grazing and can decline under very high grazing. In the Mara region in Kenya, to the north, which is a continuation of the grassland ecosystem of the Serengeti Plains, Themeda makes up about 50 percent of the grass cover in lightly to moderately grazed sites, dropping to 1-5 percent cover near settlements where Maasai corral their livestock each night.

This region is home to large numbers of grazing and other wildlife, which are common on large-scale ranches and are increasing in importance as a managed resource.

Red oat grass is an important grazing grass for domestic livestock and wildlife and is part of the natural savanna pastures. It is highly palatable to livestock, especially when young


[1] Colorado State University Extension: Forage Guide [2] Plants- USDA