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 about the plant, and some dedicated management, graziers can get some good use of it.
Reed canarygrass produces high yields and grows very well in wetlands, and in well-drained soils, Anderson says, but it has two things working against it. It contains compounds called alkaloids 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 writes at beef.unl.edu/. "When it regrows back to 8-10 in. tall, graze it again. Every time it regrows, graze it again and again."
Anderson says that during fast growth in 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. Then you would be better off cutting the taller growth for hay and then renewing your intensive grazing as regrowth begins," he says. -- Joe Roybal