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Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
Fact Sheet RF-AC006
Cooperative E\tension Service
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Alternative Opportunities for Small Farms: Bermudagrass
Compiled from information obtained from David L. Wright, R. L. Stanley, Jr. and T. D. Hewitt by Kathleen
Production of bermudagrass hay may be of interest to
some producers. The profitability depends on the yield
and the sale price. The potential for a profit exists, but the
high labor requirement, high costs of equipment and wet
summer weather prevent many people from getting into
hay production. Several bermudagrass varieties are
adapted to the north Florida climate and soil types. They
can produce over 6 tons/acre/year of hay. Coastal (a
variety of bermudagrass) cut for hay every 4 weeks will
produce about the same amount of forage over the season
as the new Tifton 9 bahiagrass cut every 8 weeks. Yields
are usually 4 to 5 tons per acre. A relatively high level of
fertility is required for high yield of high quality hay of
either bahia or bermudagrass.
There is a demand for hay to feed horses, dairy cattle
and beef cattle. Some types of hay are used by mushroom
farms and construction companies. Bermuda-grasses
resistance to root-knot nematodes allows many legumes
that are susceptible to this nematode to be overseeded into
it during October and November, thus extending the
grazing season through the winter months. Overseeding
with legumes during the winter months results in nitrogen
being fixed for bermudagrass production the next spring,
and may be equal to applying 200 lb/acre of commercial
Hay can be harvested as square bales, which are
usually more marketable than large rolls to small
ranchettes with horses and other livestock, but this
requires more labor for harvest and storage facilities. In
1997, small square bales sold for $3.00 to $4.00
depending on quality and availability. The large round
bales require less labor at harvest, but usually are sold at a
lower price per ton. Large round bales sell for $20 to $35
depending on quality, availability and size of bale.
Weather greatly influences the quality of hay produced and
therefore the revenue which may be gained.
A system that would allow harvesting 2 or 3 cuttings
as round bale silage when the weather does not permit
curing of hay is desirable. This has been followed by a
few producers, but requires special equipment and storage
which is expensive. Roundbale silage rolls can be moved
just as roundbale hay.
Labor and Capital
The costs of establishment may exceed $150/acre and
the annual costs of production exceeds $225/acre.
Approximately half of the costs of production are the
equipment and labor required for harvesting. A minimum
of 80 to 100 acres would be required for efficient
utilization of equipment unless it was shared with other
1. This document is Fact Sheet RF-AC006, one of a series of the Extension Administration Office, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and
Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. First published: June 1987. Reprinted: May 1994. Revised: August 1997. Please visit the FAIRS Web site at
2. David L. Wright, professor; R. L. Stanley, Jr, associate professor; and T. D. Hewitt, associate professor, North Florida Research and Education Center
(NFREC), Quincy; Kathleen C. Ruppert, assistant professor, Florida Energy Extension Service, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural
Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611.
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational
information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.
For information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service office. Florida Cooperative
Extension Service I Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences / University of Florida / Christine Taylor Waddill, Dean
Alternative Opportunities for Small Farms: Bermudagrass Production Review
producers. In certain parts of Florida custom harvesting is
The bermudagrasses need to be harvested every 4 to 6
weeks during the warm season to produce high quality
hay. However, the rainy weather from June to August
often causes considerable delay in harvest resulting in poor
quality hay or losses while attempting to field dry the grass
prior to baling.
Bermudagrasses will perform well on a wide range of
flatwoods and upland soils; however, bermudagrass does
not perform well on poorly drained flatwood soils. The
production of hay on new ground requires all sticks, roots,
etc., be removed so the mower can operate most
efficiently. The soil pH should be adjusted to 5.8 or
higher before planting. Once the bermudagrasses are
established, they can be utilized for hay for several years
with application of lime and fertilizer.
Bermudagrasses will not make little root growth
before soil temperatures reach 60 F. However, leaf
growth of bermudagrass will start at temperatures around
55 F. Bermudagrasses, unlike the bahia and digitgrasses,
will continue producing forage into the fall at a moderate
rate until frost. They also start growth earlier in the
spring, if moisture and fertility are available.
Bermudagrass varieties include Alicia, Coastal,
Coastcross-1, Callie, Grazer, Tifton 44, Tifton 78 and
Tifton 85. Plantings from sprigs may be made from
mid-February through July. Plantings made from
vegetative cuttings are usually made from early May
through July. Alicia, Coastal and Tifton 85
bermudagrasses can be established from sprigs or top
cuttings, but Tifton 44 and Tifton 78 should be
established from sprigs. Callie and Coastcross-1 produce
few rhizomes and must be established from green cuttings.
Armyworms may be a problem during periods of
drought. Little damage will be noted if frequent cuttings
are made. Spittlebugs may also cause damage; however,
the best control is frequent cutting to a short stubble
height to eliminate a buildup of a mat of forage. Burning
bermudagrass fields in February also helps control
spittlebugs if a dense mat of forage has been allowed to
accumulate. Insecticides are available for armyworm (in
the young stages) if necessary.
Fertility and age of forage are the two most important
factors affecting the quality of hay. Fertilizer should be
applied according to soil test recommendations. Two or 3
yearly applications of nitrogen and potash are required.
Phosphorus and micronutrients may be applied in a single
application in the spring.
Herbicides are available to control most broadleaf and
grass weeds for 6 to 12 weeks when applied immediately
after sprigging or planting. Lack of weed control during
establishment may result in failure to obtain a stand.
Also, a potential bermudagrass hay producer should be
sure to determine what and when herbicides have been
used on the acreage previously to see if the same
herbicides are compatible with bermudagrass.
Bermudagrasses will perform best when a 4-6 week
growth period is allowed between cuttings. However, this
growth period may be shortened by 1 week during July
and August. This treatment provides high yields of good
quality hay, in addition to increased persistence. Animal
intake is higher and gain per animal is greater with
frequent cuttings. Hybrid bermudagrasses are quite
competitive with common bermudagrass and may be
planted on land contaminated with common bermuda-
grass if thorough site preparation is used.