Johnson grass

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Lammie

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Is distressed Johnson grass toxic to cattle? I gather it is, but I don't have any experience with it. We have a friend who has leased some pasture but isn't grazing it right now with the drought because he said that it had Johnson grass on it.
 

Herefordcross

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I will tread lightly on this subject because we have just about gotten rid of it on our ground. We have never had a problem with them eating it anytime or in anyform, hay grazing silage
 
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Lammie

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skyeagle":gxpz5w2l said:
How did yougetrid of the Johnson grass Lammie.I dont seem
to be gaining any ground on it here.

Wasn't me, it was Herfordcross. I don't have it. I don't have grass of any sort to speak of... :oops: :mad: :x

So, it isn't toxic? The guy specifically said that he wouldn't graze his cows on that pasture because it had dried up Johnson grass on it. Said something about it being toxic to them. I wasn't there at the time or I would have asked him. This was just what my husband told me he said.
 

sidney411

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I've been told if it has a white residue/powder looking stuff on it it is in the stage that IS poisionous to cattle, not to let them eat it or bale it for hay. I'm not 100% sure about this though, we're cutting fields right now that have quite a bit of johnson grass. Cows eat it fine, why do you want to get rid of it?
 
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Lammie

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I don't want to get rid of it. Believe me, if I had any sort of grass at all in my pasture I'd be thankful. It was my husband's friend Mike who was saying he wouldn't graze his cattle on it. Right now the animals are kicking up dust when they walk.

I never thought I'd say this, but it is worse this year than it was last. I'm gonna have to start haying. Last year we started in September and in 2004 we didn't start until after Thanksgiving.

This sucks. That's why I sold my calves. Nothing to feed them. :x
 

Arnold Ziffle

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Some folks really look down their nose at Johnson grass and consider it to be a nuisance and highly inferior, but IMHO it really does make pretty good feed and it is basically free. I sure wouldn't want it to get started in a nice bermuda hay meadow or in some other situations, but it has its uses. Responds well to a little moisture and light discing that stirs up the ground for seeds and to stimulate the rhizones. Makes good hay as well -- there have been a number of years that my cows were thrilled to have it to eat when there was nothing else available to me within reason. (I fed it along with whole cottonseed and the gals did just fine). It won't last too long in a field with cattle grazing it continuously.

But neighboring row-crop farmers might want to come after you and wallop you with a 2X4 if they see you actively trying to grow the stuff! :)

Like a lot of grasses, if you in fact want it, you'll need to manage it properly and keep its limitations in mind. Johnson grass, as well as related sorghums, millet, corn, etc. has the potential to accumulate harmful levels of nitrates especially when grown in severely drought stressed conditions, as well as in other conditions. The above grasses (other than millet) also can be susceptible to prussic acid buildup, but that dissipates over a relatively short time, unlike nitrates.

Ag labs, junior colleges, etc. can test for nitrate, etc. and it is cheap insurance if you have doubts. If you do a google search for something like "nitrate poison in cattle" (or prussic acid poison in cattle) you'll find a lot to read.
 

dj

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skyeagle it won't handle heavy grazing.
With johnson grass I believe the danger is prussic acid or cyanide poisoning. As a hay it can be cured and not have a problem.
 

Wewild

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Lammie":hinjoci3 said:
Is distressed Johnson grass toxic to cattle? I gather it is, but I don't have any experience with it. We have a friend who has leased some pasture but isn't grazing it right now with the drought because he said that it had Johnson grass on it.

It's good stuff for hay. Been loving it for a while. You got to be careful about a few instances when it might cause prusic acid problems of which we haven't had. Read up on it. Rain after a drought and frost seem to be the problems.

We make our first cutting on fescue and our second on Johnson grass.

This year it looks like we will get the only second cutting around here.

Get it tested for your peace of mine.
 

Wewild

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dj":23412rpv said:
skyeagle it won't handle heavy grazing.

I think it might be because they eat it before regular forage. There ain't any growing in the pasture a fence line here. Eventhough there is plenty in the hay field.
 

Rocket1121

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I have an 80 acre feild with approx 20 acres of Johnson Grass on it not to mention what's in the fence rows. I live 25 or so miles north of Oklahoma State University which has a large agricultural research department.
I contacted the local vet for advice on grazing cattle on stressed johnson grass and he said that locally there has been no cases of toxic problems. He would send a sample to the university for testing or I could take it myself and not have to wait a week for the results. I saw this as an oppurtunity to ask questions so I took it myself.
It was negative for prussic acid and nitrates. So I turned the cattle in on it with no problems for 3 weeks now.
They exsplained to me that prussic acid is stored in the leaves of the plant not the stem like nitrates. Nitrates are not really a big problem in johnson grass. Also prussic acid will disapate out of the plant when swathed because the sun will bleach it out as it drys. As it drys it is released as cyanide gas into the atmosphere.
They said that where most problems occur is if you was to cut and bale it and the new fresh growth that will occur during a drought stressed situation will have higher levels of prussic acid than mature stands or a lot of rain to cause quick growth and regrowth.
The white powder that appears on the leaves is suppose to be a natural sun reflection devise the plant will put on in the summer to protect it from the hotter than normal sun. I was alway told that when the stalks get a redish tint to them in later fall that's when the plant is most toxic but if your cattle are feeding on it for the summer they will build an immunity to the toxcicity.
If you cut it and feed it with the heads on it or graze it the cows eat it and spread it to where ever there is a cow pie on the ground. So it can be a problem to control.
If there is any question you can have it tested. Pick several samples of leaves from different areas and immediatly put them in doubled ziploc baggies. This stops it from what they said was gassing off.Then put in a brown papersack and put it in the icebox as soon as possible. Take it to your local vet and he should be able to send it in for testing. Hope I helped, because we all need every bit of grass we can get a hold of right now no matter what it is and in the future.
 

cowtrek

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J-grass is good stuff. They don't call it "ice cream grass" for nothing. To the chagrin of row crop farmers everywhere (which I was one) the stuff was originally imported as a promising cattle forage. Only later was it found that the best way to kill it is continuous grazing. It spreads prolifically in non-grazing situations by seed and rhizome which is why it gets so bad in row crops and hay meadows that aren't grazed. Cattle will always eat johnsongrass first-- they love it like ice cream or candy, and they'll literally eat it to death.
Prussic acid is a risk with all the sorghums. It's a risk that is mostly overblown. The main time to worry is when you get a sudden flush of quick lush green growth right after a prolonged dry spell, and right after a burning frost. I'd pull the cattle off the jonsongrass for about a week or so right after either of those events. That is when it builds up prussic acid and about a week or two will allow it to go away. If you want to make absolutely sure you won't have any prussic acid problems, cut the J-grass for dry hay. The prussic acid quickly gasses out during the drydown process. If it were me and I needed hay and was scared to graze it, I'd just bale it and call it good. The regrowth should be fine. It's usually the quick growth spurt caused by a rain after drought stress that causes a problem, I don't think the drought stressed grass should have prussic acid but you can have it tested to be sure if you want to graze rather than bale it.

The other problem, usually overblown, is nitrate poisoning. Nitrate accumulation is usually a result of heavy fertilizer use in a drought situation when there is simply not enough water to sustain new growth. When water is the limiting factor to growth with high soil nitrogen levels, the plant draws moisture and dissolved nitrogen in through the roots for metabolism and growth, but the plant doesn't have enough water for more growth, so it stores the nitrogen in the stem tissues waiting for rain so that it can use that nitrogen rapidly for growing when the water is no longer the limiting factor. It's sorta like us gaining ten pounds or so over the holidays, we eat more than we need so our bodies store it til we need it. If we don't eat so much or increase our activities (like plant growth does) then it's not a problem. In dry conditions you want to use less fertilizer since water is the limiting factor to plant growth. Using a lot of N just increases costs and wastes fertilizer and causes nitrate problems. When water is in abundance, then N availability is the limiting factor and fertilizer will help. But NO amount of N will increase yields above the amount of growth that can be sustained with the limited supply of water. So, in a drought, apply little or no N until you get a rain (depending on severity) and when it does rain you can put out some fertilizer when it will actually do some good.

Hope this helps. OL JR :)
 

ctlbaron

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I have one field that has a lot of johnson grass in it. The cattle love it and I havn't had any problems with them eating it. They will pick it first then move on to the shorter growing grasses.
 

LonghornRanch

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I just bought 20 round bales for $35 each (1100LB) of Johnson grass. Here is Texas, I was glad to get it. I dropped a bale in the pasture and the cows love it! It was cut green, dried and baled right, should have some protein.
 

cowtrek

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Andybob":150rmc9l said:
There was quite a lot of Johnson grass on the old cotton field when I fenced it, it has now been grazed almost to extinction.

Yep, bout the only place j-grass will grow better than a cotton field is a corn or milo fieLd. I speak from experience here :) Most corn and milo herbicides won't touch it at all. Guy near here had an old blow sand field, every year planted corn on it and the corn would get 3-4 feet tall, maybe 5 feet in a wet year and make nubbins, but you could barely see the corn for the 7 foot high solid johnsongrass. Most beautiful hay patch I ever saw and he's spending money trying to grub $2/ bushel corn out of it :)

Grazing is the absolute best way to kill j-grass. Don't spend money on herbicides; let the grass pay your cows to kill it!

Good luck! OL JR :)
 

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