Warm season grasses are not new to Missouri. When Missouri was settled these grasses grew wild and naturally on over a million acres of Ozarks land. Without knowledge of how to manage these grasses they soon disappeared due to overgrazing and late mowing.
The warm season grasses flourish in the hot dry weather of June, July and August when fescue and bluegrass is more dormant. Cattle ranchers who have enough acreage to switch over to this native grazing can pack on the pounds, however, they must remember not to over-graze or to run livestock on land that has recently been hayed.
Livestock producers who rotate cattle from cool season grasses to warm season grasses will find native pastures will be grazed down sooner because the livestock love the warm season grasses and, by choice, eat more because they like it, therefore, the weight gain is well worth the effort.
Cool season grasses usually stop growing for about a 4 month period during the middle of the grazing season, making warm season grasses a wise choice to fill this time period.
Cool season grasses can survive repeated over-grazing and landowners do not need to be concerned about mowing too close. When mowing warm season grasses you must leave a four to six-inch stubble and re-growth after mowing should not be grazed until after a killing frost and even then a protective cover should remain throughout the winter.
According to Mark Kennedy, who is a State Grassland Specialist with United States Department of Agricutlure-Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) in Texas County, establishing warm season grasses can be done two different ways. “The ideal situation would be to clear new ground,” Mark said, “an area on your farm where there is no existing pasture.”
To establish a seed bed you can use the conventional tilling or use a no-till drill and use soil tests to determine what the ground needs to get started. Mark said, “For seeding you will need a box for fluffy seed because some of the native and warm season grasses require specialized drills.” Mark also said, “Weed competition is hard to control that first year until the grasses are firmly established.”
The second way of establishing warm season grasses it to get rid of existing vegetation, usually Fescue, and that requires the help of your soil conservation specialist. Usually it takes a good 2 years to eradicate cool season grasses through tilling, spraying and cover crops.