Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)
An aggressive grass as cattle feed
In this article, farmer VS Gilbey wrote about the good results he achieved by using rescue grass as cattle feed. The conditions on the [then] Bloemfontein municipal sewage disposal farm may be exceptional when compared with those of other Free State farms, but the solution to our stock-feeding problems may be of interest to farmers faced with a shortage of the usual feeds.
We’re growing out and fattening large numbers of oxen on grass alone. And what a wonderful grass it is; it grows so fast that no other crop or weed can compete with it. It is so soft that even old oxen without teeth don’t have any difficulties in tearing it off. It stands up to grazing very well, and it doesn’t die out like Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) and perennial ryegrass (L. perenne) do here.
As I’ve mentioned, our conditions are exceptional, as we have 3,8 million litres of sewage per day at our disposal. This doesn’t go very far in summer, but winter is more difficult and rescue grass (Bromus catharticus) came to our rescue.
PLENTY OF WATER
It is a very aggressive winter grass that grows wherever there is plenty of water to be found. It is an annual species, growing from seed during February, March or April, depending on the rainfall; it grows very fast if given plenty of water.
During June and July, it is practically at a standstill, beginning again in August. It will then go to seed very rapidly when the warm weather arrives, unless kept grazed short.
I have found that when cut for hay in warm weather, the grass will die before the hay can be carted away and water applied to it.
However, if it is irrigated regularly and kept grazed short, it will last until November. Then so much seed will be produced that there is no fear of the grass not coming up again next season.
It is therefore superior to Italian and perennial ryegrasses and Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) because, although all three of these grasses produce seed, said seed requires better conditions for germination, and after a few years these grasses have died out here, leaving the field to rescue grass.
With this heavy grazing, the ground gets very hard, so that after three or four years the land will have to be ploughed over. However, the grass will come up thicker than ever, if given plenty of water.
600 OXEN FATTENED
I have never seen any recommendations in print or heard of anyone who has had a good word to say about this grass; but after seeing how keen the oxen were on it, I decided to try it. Over the past three years, 600 oxen have been fattened on this farm. They had nothing but pasture and a little hay during the winter. The pasture was rescue grass for the full duration, with green oats from May to July, and some Italian and perennial ryegrasses, although most of this has died out by now. The hay they had in winter was rescue grass hay, lucerne, Sudan grass (Sorghum × drummondii) and veld grass hay, with a little cowpea hay. During summer they had buffalo grass (Bouteloua dactyloides), kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum) and veld grass. All of this green pasture gives an oiliness to the coat that enhances an animal’s appearance in the auction ring. Under this treatment, the animals do get really fat. Our results have been most encouraging.
Rescue grass might have possibilities under irrigation on ground that’s too heavy for lucerne.
This article first appeared in the 9 December 1942 issue of Farmer’s Weekly and has been edited to adhere to the current style of the magazine.