Taking Bermuda Hay
into the Future!
Our farming operation, consisting of three separate locations near Wynne, Arkansas, has undergone many changes in the past 35 years. Our farms are located on Crowley's Ridge, which runs north and south for over two hundred miles along eastern Arkansas. This ridge was deposited by the glaciers which formed the Mississippi River valley during the last ice age, and consists mainly of clay and silt topsoil with pockets of sand and gravel here and there along its length. Although many farmers do raise row crops on the ridge, it is difficult to irrigate, and the poor clay soil does not produce bumper crops. This is one of the reasons we eventually migrated from the rice and soybean production common to this area, into custom hay baling, and then to hay production and sales to cattle and horse owners in the area, and now, nationwide.
While hay was our main product, for many years, we also raised and sold cattle to the western stockyards. We gained much experience and knowledge in hay production during this transition, and have researched many varieties of grasses in an effort to produce the highest quality hay for our horses, our cattle operation, and our hay customers. Native grasses such as fescue are great pasture grasses for cattle, and can produce a lot of tonnage in hay. However, fescue can be detrimental to pregnant or lactating horses in the pasture, and should not be fed to them as hay. Several varieties of Sudan grasses, as well as Johnson grass, grow exceptionally well in this area, but once again, are not palatable to horses. Since eastern Arkansas has many horse owners, cattle owners, and an occasional sheep and goat owner, we were searching for a type of hay that would widen our customer base and also be beneficial for all types of grazing animals. We needed to find a grass that would be palatable to all grazing animals, and would provide equally as good pasture forage as a hay crop.
After running the gauntlet for years with mixed grasses such as fescue, cheat, rye grasses, clover, and even a small amount of alfalfa, we finally settled on common Bermuda grass. This did well for us with both cattle and horse owners, until we discovered the three varieties of hybrid Bermuda grasses that have now become the basis for our hay sales throughout the southern states. We have discovered that with proper fertilization, weed control, and moisture in the soil, the high protein content, palatability, and abundant growth of hybrid Bermuda grasses has made horse and cattle owners alike stand up and take notice. We are convinced that Hybrid Bermuda grass is the hay of the future!
Our hay production ranges from common Bermuda to three hybrid varieties, World Feeder, Vaughn's #1, and Wonder Grass Bermuda. We produce round bales, as well as large and small square bales, and sell them individually or in bulk. All three of these hybrid varieties exhibit exceptional tonnage and high palatability for horses, cattle, sheep, goats, or other grazing animals.
We are now evolving further into this field of endeavor. Along with the sale of our horse quality hay, we are also offering for sale two of these top quality varieties of hybrid Bermuda grass sprigs or cuttings.
Vaughn's #1 Bermuda Grass is a rapidly growing hybrid developed and patented ten years ago by Terrell Vaughn of Walling, Tennessee. It can be planted by sprigging, or from clippings, which have been spread over prepared soil, and then disked into the ground. Once planted, it develops a root system rapidly, and has an exceptional growth rate. It will produce a root at each node or joint. It then spreads in all directions from each node, establishing a new plant everywhere it comes into contact with the soil. Once rooted, this grass becomes quite drought resistant, and it's rapid growth rate helps to choke out existing weeds. It's fine stem and leaves makes it popular with horse owners. It's exceptional palatability results in very little waste, whether feeding horses or cattle.
Wonder Grass was developed in Beggs, Oklahoma by Ray Tyler, and has become a boon to cattle producers because of its abundant, high quality pasture and hay production. This grass is actually an African hybrid Bermuda. Tyler calls it's forage yield, "Unbelievable!" The grass produces a "high yield of tender, quality forage which is palatable, deep rooted, and very drought resistant." Like the Vaughn's #1, Wonder Grass grows at an unbelievable rate, actually spreading up to 3 to 4 inches per day while moisture remains in the soil. This grass has been growing in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and several other states for over 20 years, and has proven itself to be exceptionally winter hardy as well. Both of these varieties of Bermuda propagate very rapidly, and have shown to be wonderful pasture forage for horses, cattle, sheep, and goats, in quantity as well as quality. The plants consist of a fine or narrow blade and stem that displays a deep green color, and a tantalizingly sweet aroma. The hay, if stored in a barn, retains a light green color, and exhibits a heady sweet smell. The plants will remain quite palatable throughout the growing season, and will not become woody or high in cellulose during hot fall weather when other varieties of grasses lose their palatability.
During periods of hot dry weather, when other grasses become dormant, these hybrid Bermudas may seem to slow down their above ground growth. In reality, they are busily increasing their root systems, which can become quite deep and extensive. These grasses will "green up" earlier in the spring, and will also continue to remain green for a period of time after frost in the fall, giving you the added benefit of feeding less hay during these months.
Another selling point for all three of these hybrid Bermuda varieties is, they are all reported to be extremely salt tolerant, and will survive in ground containing a high salt content. We can state from our own experience in the field shown here, that our hybrid Bermuda grass has completely covered areas of ground so alkaline that it wouldn't even support wild onions!
They will also produce excellent hay tonnage per acre. Once established, depending on irrigation, weather conditions, and if fertilized properly, they can be cut every 28 days. This allows the southern farmer to realize three cuttings or more per growing season while still keeping the protein content of the hay at top level. With their exceptionally early spring growth, the first cutting can be made by mid-May, the second by mid-June, and if irrigation is available, or moisture remains in the soil, they will continue to grow until a hard frost.
Soil preparation is a very important step in establishing these hybrid varieties of Bermuda grasses. Steps must be taken to eradicate existing grasses and weeds before planting. Disking the soil can often cause germination of seeds already in the ground, and can compound your problem by re-sprigging existing weeds and grasses. There are several very effective chemicals that can be used for soil preparation before planting, however, we recommend that you speak to your local county agent before applying any chemicals to your ground. Each state has different regulations, which must be met in regard to grazing or hay production and sale for livestock use. Be sure you know what is legal or recommended for use in your area before you begin your soil preparation. Your local county agent can be a great help in this area.
Sprigs can be sown from April through mid-June, or until your soil begins to lose moisture. They are usually planted with a sprigging machine, which drops the root balls into a furrow, then covers and packs the soil with its wheels. The soil can be rolled to seal in moisture. Growth should be visible within a week or two, on the roots as well as the plant above ground, depending on the moisture content of the soil.
Cuttings can be planted through July, and are broadcast over the soil, as you would spread straw. If available, a manure spreader can replace some of the physical labor required for this planting operation. The cuttings are then disked into the soil, and a cultipacker or roller is run over the ground to seal the soil and hold in the moisture. Within a week or two, small white roots should become visible at the nodes or joints where the grass is in contact with the soil.
This crop requires a carefully managed soil fertility program. Many farms have been continuously used for generations with not much added back to the soil. For maximum growth, a complete soil analysis is recommended. This should include N, P, K, pH levels, calcium and trace minerals. A pH level of 6.2 to 6.5 is recommended. Soil tests should be performed before planting to determine the soil needs, and can be performed after establishment to maintain correct balance in your soil.
This crop requires a high amount of potassium and nitrogen. Through our own experience, we have found that it also requires micronutrients like boron, magnesium, and sulphur. We recommend that you use 250-300 lbs. per acre of triple 17 or 19, or 400 lbs. per acre of triple 13. You should also include 25 lbs. per acre of sulphur and 15 lbs. per acre of a trace mineral package. We are acquainted with several companies, which produce these micronutrients, two of which are: Crown Agricultural Services, Inc. - El Reno, OK - (405) 284-6769, and DeltAg Formulation - Greenville, MS - (662) 332-3555.
Plant Food Uptake (PFU) for Hybrid Bermuda Grasses
If you are interested in purchasing round or large or small square bales of the finest horse quality hay available; producing pasture forage which will sustain large numbers of livestock; or improving your own hay ground with Bermuda grass that will consistently produce excellent tonnage per acre, we believe hybrid Bermuda Grass is what you need!
|6 Ton Yield per Acre - N P K Mg S |
Lbs. per acre 258 60 288 18 30
8 Ton Yield per Acre - N P K Mg S
Lbs. per acre 368 96 400 26 44
Plant Food Removed in Harvested Crops
Lbs. per Ton - N P K
46 12 50