Cattle Feeding: Revealing the Benefits of Sudan Grass Hay

When it comes to feeding cattle, the quality and nutritional value of the forage plays a critical role in their overall health and productivity. Sudan grass hay is a popular forage option that is often considered for cattle diets. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of Sudan grass hay and evaluate its suitability as a forage option for cattle.

What is Sudan Grass Hay?

Sudan grass (Sorghum sudanense) is a warm season annual grass that is commonly grown as a forage crop. It is known for its rapid growth, high yield potential and ability to tolerate drought conditions. Sudan grass hay is made by harvesting and drying the above-ground parts of the plant, usually before it reaches full maturity.

Nutritional Profile

Sudan grass hay provides a number of nutritional benefits for cattle. It is known to be a good source of energy, providing carbohydrates that can support weight gain and milk production in lactating cows. In addition, Sudan grass hay contains moderate levels of crude protein, which is essential for muscle development and overall growth.

It is important to note that the nutrient composition of Sudan grass hay can vary based on several factors, including maturity at harvest, soil fertility, and growing conditions. As the plant matures, the fiber content increases while the protein content decreases. Therefore, harvesting Sudan grass at the optimum stage is critical to maximize its nutritional value.

Considerations for Feeding Sudan Grass Hay to Cattle

While Sudan grass hay can be a valuable component of a cattle diet, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Nitrate levels:
    Sudan grass has the potential to accumulate nitrates, especially under certain growing conditions. High nitrate levels can be toxic to cattle, causing decreased appetite, poor growth and even death. It is important to test Sudan grass hay for nitrate levels before feeding it to cattle and ensure that they are within safe limits.
  2. Fiber content:
    As mentioned above, the fiber content of Sudan grass hay increases with maturity. While some fiber is necessary for proper rumen function, overly mature hay may be less digestible and provide less nutritional value. Harvesting Sudan grass at the optimal growth stage, when it is still leafy and before it becomes overly mature, can help maintain its digestibility and nutrient content.
  3. Supplementation:
    Depending on the specific nutritional needs of your cattle, additional supplementation may be necessary when feeding Sudan grass hay. For example, if the hay is low in protein, supplementation with protein-rich forages or additives may be required to meet the cattle’s nutritional needs.

Benefits of Sudan Grass Hay for Cattle

  • Cost-effective: Sudan grass hay is generally less expensive than other forage options, making it an economical choice for cattle producers.
  • High yield potential: Sudan grass is known for its vigorous growth and high biomass production, allowing for ample hay supplies.
  • Palatability: Cattle typically find Sudan grass hay palatable, which encourages consistent consumption.
  • Drought Tolerance: Sudan grass has good drought tolerance, making it a good choice for regions with limited water availability.
  • Weed suppression: The dense growth habit of sudan grass can help suppress weed growth in pastures.

Considerations When Feeding Sudan Grass Hay

While Sudan grass hay offers several benefits, there are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Hydrogen cyanide: Sudan grass, especially when stressed or harvested at improper maturity stages, can accumulate hydrogen cyanide (hydrocyanic acid) levels that are toxic to cattle. It is important to monitor hydrogen cyanide levels and follow proper harvesting and grazing management practices.
  • Nitrate toxicity: Sudan grass has the potential to accumulate nitrates, especially when grown under nitrogen-rich conditions or during drought. High nitrate levels can be harmful to livestock. Regular forage testing and proper management practices can help mitigate this risk.
  • Digestibility: Sudan grass hay may have lower digestibility compared to other forages. Supplementing with higher quality forages or balancing the diet with additional sources of protein and energy may be necessary, especially for animals with higher nutritional requirements.
  • Variety selection: Selecting suitable varieties of sudan grass with desirable traits, such as improved nutritional content, disease resistance, and drought tolerance, can improve its suitability as a forage for livestock.


Sudan grass hay can be a valuable forage option for cattle, providing energy and moderate levels of protein. However, proper management, including testing for nitrate levels and harvesting at the optimum growth stage, is critical to ensure its safety and maximize its nutritional value. Consultation with a nutritionist or veterinarian can help you develop a balanced feeding program that incorporates Sudan grass hay to meet the specific needs of your cattle. Remember that each herd’s nutritional requirements may vary, and it is important to monitor your cattle’s health and adjust the diet as needed.


Is Sudan grass hay good for cattle?

Forage Selection for Livestock All Sudan/Sorghum forages are good choices for dairy and beef cattle feed. The choice of forage will be heavily dependent on seasonal needs and intended harvest management @ silage, pasture, green-chop, etc.

What grass makes the best hay for cattle?


Alfalfa– It is probably the best high quality feed for livestock and as a cash crop but it requires deep, well drained soils and high fertility for high yields. While it can be used for grazing, it is best adapted for hay or silage.

Can cows graze Sudan?

Sudangrass should not be grazed at less than 18 inches in height and should never be grazed after a frost or severe drought. A few weeks after a frost, it is safe to turn livestock out. An adequate rest period is needed after grazing or cutting. Nitrate toxicity is also possible when grazing sudangrass.

How much protein does Sudan hay have?

It is more suited to rations for dry cows, replacement heifers over 12 months of age, beef cows and calves. It contains about 6-8% crude protein and 50-60% total digestible nutrients.

What is Sudan hay used for?

Major use is for silage. Stems and leaves are similar in size to corn. Yields in central and southern Wisconsin have ranged from 3 tons/A in cool years to 11 tons/A dry matter in years with above average temperatures. Feeding value of sorghum silage is 80-90% that of comparable corn silage.

What hay can cows not eat?

Sorghum, Sudans, Millets and Corn. Four main categories of sorghum and millets are grain sorghum, forage sorghum, sudangrass and sorghum-sudan-grass hybrids. These all put grazing cattle at risk for prussic acid HCN poisoning.

What grass has the most protein for cattle?

Giant King Grass when cut every 40-60 days is excellent animal feed. It has high-protein and high palatability. It can be the entire diet or a part of a mixed ration for dairy cows, cattle, sheep, goats, camels and other animals and even pigs and some fish.

Is sudangrass toxic to cattle?

Sudangrass and sorghum are two of a group of plants that produce cyanide, which can poison livestock under certain conditions. These plants, called cyanogenetic plants, produce cyanogenetic glucosides during their growing stage.

Does Sudan make good hay?

Forage sorghum, sudangrass and sorghum-sudangrass hybrids (sudax) are exceptionally heat and drought tolerant annual crops that are used for cover, grazing, green chop, hay, and silage. Because of the drought and hay shortage, many acres of these crops have been planted this year for emergency forage in Michigan.

Can cattle eat sudangrass?

Sorghums, sorghum-sudangrass crosses and sudangrasses may be poisonous if grazed or fed improperly. The danger of prussic acid poisoning is greatest when livestock graze forage sorghum varieties and crosses, less when they graze sorghum-sudangrass crosses, and least when they graze sudangrasses.

Does Sudan grass come back every year?

It is a finer stemmed warm season annual grass when compared to forage sorghum and will regrow after each harvest.

How late can you plant Sudan grass?

Purchase seed that is adapted to your locality. In eastern Oregon, you can plant sudangrass between May 1 and June 1. It is important to wait until soils are warm enough before seeding, as cool soils slow growth and give weed seeds advantage over the crop. Seed when soil temperatures are at least 60°F.

What is the feed value of Sudan grass?

Sudan grass, hay

Main analysis Unit Avg
Dry matter % as fed 91.8
Crude protein % DM 10.0
Crude fibre % DM 33.5
NDF % DM 68.7

What is the best feed for beef cattle?

Corn, oats, and barley are the primary grains fed to cattle. Oats, which has a lower energy value due to its high fiber content, is considered the “safest” grain in regards to potential digestive disturbances.

What cutting of hay is best for cows?

Producers should strive to harvest 1st cutting hay in the early heading stage. Hay harvested at this stage should meet the nutrient requirements for late pregnant cows. Second cutting hay should be used to feed lactating cows. The date of 1st cutting will be highly dependant on the type of spring weather.

Do cows prefer grass or hay?

Millborn’s Cow Conditioner: Sorghum Sudangrass

What is the best grass to grow for hay?

When considering establishing a legume/grass hayfield, aim for a field containing around 1/3 grass to 2/3 legume. There are several excellent combinations to plant. Some of the more popular combinations are orchardgrass/alfalfa and tall fescue/alfalfa.

What is the best pasture for cattle?

Most cattle pastures are a mix of legumes and grasses, but what mix and seeds are best for your cattle? If hay is a concern, Ladino clover (white) or red clover are good choices. Alfalfa is also a good choice if hay is your key concern.

What grass has the highest protein?

Grass and Hay With the Highest Protein

Bermuda grass, which is also a favorite of homeowners trying to grow a beautiful lawn, is relatively high in grass protein. Its crude protein levels can be as high as 16 percent, and it has a total digestible nutrient content of 55 percent.

What cutting of hay is best for cows?

Producers should strive to harvest 1st cutting hay in the early heading stage. Hay harvested at this stage should meet the nutrient requirements for late pregnant cows. Second cutting hay should be used to feed lactating cows. The date of 1st cutting will be highly dependant on the type of spring weather.

Which cutting of hay has the most nutrition?

Timothy Hay

Timothy must be harvested in the pre- or early-bloom stage to ensure a high nutrient content. The first cutting usually has a higher weed content, and quality decreases after the second cutting, so the second cutting is usually the best to feed.

Do cows prefer grass or hay?

The simple answer is hay. Most people are familiar the a cows diet in the summer, acres and acres of lush green grass. But what is hay? Hay is the staple forage in most cattle operations.