Because of its excellent germination and vigorous growth rate, annual rye grass makes for good hay production. The seedbed or pasture must be prepared through some minor cultivation. The seed is either broadcast over the ground or drilled into the soil at a depth of 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch. Hay harvesting is best done when the grass seed heads reach early formation. Hay yield will vary between 2 tons and 6 tons per acre depending on the field’s health and amount of seed planted.
Contact your agricultural extension service for conducting a field soil test before cultivation begins in the rye grass pasture. The test results will give recommendations for fertilization of the field prior to rye grass seed planting. Consult the extension service for varieties of rye grass that are adapted for your cool season climate. Rye grass is typically planted as an early fall crop.
Use a shallow field cultivator attached to a tractor. Work the soil in the rye grass pasture area. Attention must be paid to any slope conditions in the field where heavy rains may cause severe erosion. Because of variations in rye grass germination rates for different species, soil erosion may occur before the rye grass can hold the loose soil in place.
Broadcast or drill the rye grass seed into the soil at a rate of 20 pounds to 30 pounds per acre. Lesser amounts of seed can be used if mixing in a legume for a blended hay crop. Consult the extension service for legume varieties that do well when combined with rye grass.
Allow the rye grass to reach an early seed head maturity. At this point the rye grass will be close to its most nutritious for grazing animals. Harvest the rye grass into hay.