|“Tiffany” Teff Produces Quality Forage Fast!|
Have you heard about teff grass? That’s the question forage producers from across the country are asking. The momentum of this new forage crop has been phenomenal since the release of commercial forage varieties like "Tiffany" Teff about five years ago.
So What Is Teff and Why All the Excitement?
"Tiffany" Teff is a warm-season annual grass (C4) gaining popularity with farmers across the U.S. as a new alternative summer forage grass. Historically a cereal grain in Africa, teff’s previous role as a forage has been relatively limited. For centuries, teff was a food crop in Africa and most recently as a niche crop in the U.S. as a gluten-free flour source for individuals suffering from Celiac’s Disease (gluten intolerance). Recent reexamination of the species by public and private researchers has redefined the crop as a high-yielding and high-quality summer forage grass.
What Are the Advantages of Teff as a Forage Grass?
The main advantage of teff is its ability to produce high-quality forage in a relatively short growing season. Teff’s high yield during the summer months is an advantage over cool-season grasses like Timothy, which normally have a summer slump period. Teff can be planted in late-spring and be cut multiple times during the summer, with yields averaging four to seven tons per acre, depending on the length of the growing season. Other summer grass may also have high yields, but what sets teff apart is its high yield coupled with high quality.
Why is "Tiffany" Teff a Good Summer-Annual Grass Choice for Farmers?
Teff’s popularity is based on U.S. farmers’ increasing demand for a summer-forage crop producing high yields with low inputs, yet does not compromise quality. Teff’s total seasonal nitrogen needs are relatively low, generally in the range 50-90 lbs of available N. Despite its relatively low input needs, teff’s forage quality is still comparable to premier cool-season grass hays like Timothy.
Continued interest in Tiffany Teff as a forage crop is due mainly to the following reasons.
(1) Palatability: Teff is fine-stemmed and very palatable to livestock. Farmers often report their livestock prefer teff hay over other traditional grass hays and, in some cases, over other quality forages like alfalfa.
(2) Fast Growth: Under optimal growing temperatures and moisture teff germinates quickly and is ready for harvest at early boot stage, in 45 to 55 days after seeding.
(3) High Yield Coupled with High Quality: Single-cut yields are often in the one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half ton range with qual- ity comparable to other high quality forages like Timothy. In multiple-cut areas, summer production of four to seven tons is often obtainable.
(4) Summer production: Popular cool-season grasses like Timothy or orchardgrass normally have minimal production following the spring harvest. This "Summer Slump Period" is a major problem for livestock operations relying primarily on cool-season grasses. Teff can be planted in late-spring and be cut multiple times during the hot summer months. This summer production can provide a source of summer forage which can complement most farmers’ cool-season grass production and helps the farmer conserve forage supplies for the winter months.
(5) Drought Tolerance: In areas without supplemental irrigation, Teff’s main benefit is as a warm-season annual grass. It is most productive during hot weather and can provide badly needed forage during times of water-deficit. Farmers in low rainfall areas have commented teff grows very well during the summer months in hot temperatures and with little water. A USDA researcher in Weslaco, TX, for instance, reported, "teff stayed green and grew to about three feet tall with just two waterings during 75 continuous days of 100+ degree temperatures and no rain."
(6) Wide Adaptation: Teff has several advantages making it a viable alternative over other summer-annual forages, including its ability to thrive both in moisture-stressed and water-logged soils.
(7) Lack of Anti-Quality Compounds: Teff lacks the anti-quality compounds (nitrate toxicity and prussic acid) sometimes occurring in sorghum-related annuals.
(8) Versatility: Although, in most instances, teff forage is baled, it can in some operations be grazed or ensiled.
Can I Use Teff for All My Livestock or Just Horses?
Teff’s forage quality comparison to Timothy hay initially made it a popular choice for horse owners, and recent horse feeding studies conducted by Pennsylvania State has demonstrated Tiffany Teff is indeed a good horse hay. The study also pointed out that teff was especially good for obese horses and those at risk for laminitis or other metabolic disorders.
Teff is now also considered an excellent choice for dairy and/or beef producers. One dairy producer, Harmon Hobler, commented he was very surprised by the apparent high palatability of teff. The preference of his animals for teff over other high quality hays including alfalfa was often dramatic.
"They will eat teff whenever you put it in front of them, even if they are full from their normal feed ration," he said.
Harmon also commented that his herdsman is using teff hay as an indicator of the overall health of his animals.
"If a cow doesn’t eat teff when you put it in front of her, she is probably sick," he said.
He commented that dairymen are missing the boat if they don’t try and utilize teff in their feed ration.
Want To Learn More About Teff?
For more detailed information, visit the nation’s number 1 teff information website at www.TeffGrass.com. Download the latest "Teff Management Guide" or "Ask the Expert" a question. If you want to buy or sell teff hay, be sure and visit the "Teff Trader" section.
Don Miller, Ph.D., is the Director of Product Development with Producer’s Choice Seed.