Native, perennial warm-season grasses such as switchgrass and big bluestem grow primarily in the warm part of summer and produce well in soils with a low moisture-holding capacity and low phosphorus as compared to cool-season grasses. Warm-season grasses grow best in deep, well-drained soils. Switchgrass is more tolerant of poorly drained soils than big bluestem. Although recognized as a summer component of a pasture system (see “Pastures,” later in this section), these grasses can be harvested and stored as hay. Their establishment and management requirements are quite different from those of cool-season grasses, and first-time users must pay special attention to the details of managing these grasses.
When managed properly, warm-season grass hay can provide good-quality forage, especially for beef cattle. In digestibility trials, the dry matter digestibility of warm-season grass hay cut at the late vegetative stage was 71 percent for cattle and 60 percent for sheep.
For more detailed information, refer to Agronomy Facts 29: Warm-Season Grasses, available from your local extension office.