Reed canarygrass isn't as bad a pasture grass as many people think, says Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska agronomy professor. With a little knowledge and some dedicated management, graziers can get some good use of it, he adds.

Reed canarygrass produces high yields and grows very well in wetlands, and in well-drained soils, but it has two negatives. It contains compounds called alkaloids that cattle find unpalatable, and the plant produces a course stem that makes it difficult to eat. He says the only way he's found to utilize reed canarygrass effectively is grazing it before it gets very tall.

“Ideally, this means that when the grass gets 8-10 in. tall, and no taller, immediately graze it down to 3-4 in. in just a couple of days, and then move off to another grazing area,” Anderson says. “When it regrows to 8-10 in. tall, graze it again. Everytime it regrows, graze it.”

Anderson says that during the fast-growth in the spring, grazing the same area every 2-3 weeks may be necessary.

“This takes some dedication and intensive management. If the grass gets away from you, animals will just nibble at some leaves. You'd be better off cutting the taller growth for hay, then renewing your intensive grazing as regrowth begins,” he says.