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by Jim Wright, Grazingland Management Specialist
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Greensburg, Kansas

Heavy stands of cheatgrass can be efficient and effective livestock forage. In early spring the protein values of cheatgrass can be over 18 percent, and it tends to grow (and re-grow after grazing) rapidly.

Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) is an annual introduced grass species that generally germinates in the late fall, winters as a seedling, and grows profusely when conditions are right in the spring. After growing rapidly in the spring, it will set seed while depleting upper level soil moisture. The seed is mature in a very short period of time and capable of germination if conditions are right. Each seed has an awn that protrudes 1/2-3/4 inch in length and can cause mechanical damage to livestock if grazed late.

For utilization of the benefits of grazing cheatgrass and/or to aid in its control, livestock should be put on pastures in the early spring in higher than normal numbers; moved through several smaller pastures at a rate where they will be back in the starting pasture in three weeks to start moving again; and taken off the pastures when the warm season grasses start to grow rapidly to allow them a chance to recover. If this process is completed two or more consecutive years, cheatgrass can be reduced and controlled to the point that native species can better compete. Livestock will do well on this type of control because of the nutritive value of cheatgrass as long as they are removed before the plants change color (reddish purple) or set seed.

Visit your local NRCS office to learn more about natural resources conservation. The office is located at your local U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Service Center (listed in the telephone book under United States Government or on the internet at More information is also available on the Kansas Web site at USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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Cheatgrass? (DOC; 59 KB)