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Putting Teff Grass to the Test


Teff grass hayTeff is a warm-season, annual grass hay that you might not have heard about before now. With hay prices from $150 to $250 per ton (maybe even more depending on your area), Teff is worth considering. It can be planted through June and can easily precede a fall rotation into a perennial such as Derby Timothy, Benchmark Plus Orchardgrass, Horse Pasture or Horse Paddock mixes. Teff grass can provide approximately two tons of hay per cutting, and a full-season can provide up to three cuttings from 40 to 60 days apart.

Teff is a good alternative to Pearl or Foxtail Millets. Unlike the millets, Teff's fine stem imparts quick curability whereas the millets produce a coarse stem that can be harder to cure. The finer stemmed German or Foxtail Millet is susceptible to leaf diseases that don't seem to bother Teff. Being a summer annual, Teff thrives in heat and moisture yet can produce a fair crop in times of dry weather – unlike the cool season grasses.

Safety and Nutritive Value for Horses

Teff's quality is comparable to Timothy in animal acceptance, palatability and safety as there are no known toxins such as endophyte or prussic acid. The sugar content is moderate, and protein is comparable to cool season grasses in the 14% range. Maturity relative to boot stage (seed head emergence) indicates relative feed value – pre-boot harvested forage is higher in protein and RFV while boot stage is lower. It's very fine stem allows for quick curing that is more easily obtained in summer weather, providing less opportunity for molds and curing problems that sometimes occur with spring harvested Orchardgrass or Timothy.

Seeding

The rate per acre is 8-10 lbs. If it is drilled, drop at least 100 seeds per row foot. The Southern States Dessie Teff is coated to provide a more uniform drop and emergence. If using a broadcast spreader, seed to a depth of 1/8" to 1/2" maximum depth. It's advisable to cultipack or roll to ensure a firm seedbed that will draw moisture into the seed. Fertilization Apply 40 to 60 units of nitrogen for each cutting. Apply phosphorus, potassium and lime to the soil test ahead of seeding if not shortly after.

Harvest

Teff is more ideally a hay species and should be cut at boot stage or shortly after. If delayed it can lodge, so early harvest is best. There is no benefit to allowing seeds to develop. If grazed, it's best to allow for strips and fencing since horses spot graze, and forage could be wasted in a large area if horses are allowed to roam. For the first grazing, be sure that plants are sufficiently developed so that the roots don't pull out of the ground. To test, just grab a plant and pull to see if it breaks or if the roots come out.

Teff can fill a gap in temporary, summer forage production and is safe, nutritive, not hard to establish or harvest and has relatively low-maintenance.

David Jessee is an Agronomist for Southern States. For additional information, contact your local Southern States store or agronomist. Both can help you understand the needs of your soils and can make proper recommendations.


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