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Southeast Area Specialist OCES

Rye Grass FAQ

Why would I want to grow ryegrass?

Ryegrass is a high quality cool season annual grass that can reduce the amount of feed and forage you pour into your cow herd during the winter months. Reducing feeding costs is one of the best ways of increasing a cow herds profitability.

What kind of yields could I expect?

Ryegrass will only produce about 900 lbs of forage in the fall, thus, limiting its winter grazing potential. It can however, with proper fertility, produce between 2 and 3 tons of forage from March through May helping to reduce the winter feeding period.

What kind of quality does ryegrass have throughout the year?

Ryegrass, when in a vegetative state, will on average have a protein content of 12 – 16% and a TDN of 63 – 68, after the plants start to go to seed, protein = 8 -12% and TDN = 59 – 63. Compared this to mid bloom alfalfa, protein = 14 – 18, with a TDN of 58 -61.

How does ryegrass respond to nitrogen fertility?

We normally expect a ton of ryegrass production for every 60 units of N we apply. (120 lb/ac urea)

How much ryegrass seed should I plant and when?

Ryegrass should be seeded at 20 to 25 lb/ac in October. The seeds are very small and ryegrass is an aggressive plant so broadcast application of the seeds works well.

What effect does ryegrass production have on my Bermuda grass production when they are grown in the same pasture?

Ryegrass is a very competitive plant and will use up all of the nitrogen and a lot of the water in a pasture prior to the Bermuda grass greening up. If allowed to grow some height, it will also shade the Bermuda grass and inhibit its growth. If a Bermuda grass crop is expected that summer, a producer should have the ryegrass grazed or hayed off close by May 1. A nitrogen fertilizer should be applied at 50 units of N (May 1 to May 15) for ever ton of Bermuda grass yield expected. 

What is the best variety of ryegrass to plant?

Any of the commercially available ryegrass varieties will do well under normal fertility conditions.

How do I over-seed ryegrass on my Bermuda grass pasture?

Ryegrass can be mixed with fertilizer and applied to the pasture through the fertilizer spreader or it can be spread with a three point whirly bird type seeder. It can also be planted by a drill with a small seed box but care should be taken to not plant it deeper than ¼ inch. With broadcast seeding, pulling a chain harrow over the pasture after seeding will increase germination and survival of the plants.

Do I need to re-seed my pastures to ryegrass every year?

It is almost impossible to keep ryegrass from reseeding itself. That being said, we do recommend that the pasture be reseeded with 5 to 10 lbs of seed per acre mixed in with fall fertilizer application to insure a healthy stand.

For more complete information, contact your county extension office.

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