Teff Grass Offers Benefits and Challenges

Teff Grass Offers Benefits and Challenges

April 24, 2009

Teff (Eragrostis tef (Zuccagni) Trotter) is a relatively new summer annual forage grass for our region. It may be used in place of other summer annual grasses like millets, sorghums, and sudangrasses and should be planted about the same time — from late May through July.
Photo of teff grass
Teff grass (Source: Invaders Database, University of Montana)

Compared to these other grasses, teff is much leafier and finer stemmed, and often contains more crude protein and TDN. However, it usually doesn't produce quite as much tonnage.

Benefits of Feeding Teff

Teff makes a very palatable hay and is well accepted by horses, llamas, alpacas, and similar livestock. Recently weaned calves also adapt to teff hay quite quickly. Teff may be better suited to these uses than our other summer annual grasses. Of course, stock cows, replacement heifers, and other cattle also like it. However, since other summer annual grasses usually produce more tonnage and also are acceptable, they may be a better choice.

Challenges of Growing Teff

Teff can be difficult to establish. It has a very tiny seed, much smaller than an alfalfa seed. It must be planted very shallow, about one-eighth of an inch deep, or seedlings will not emerge. Many producers who have planted teff have had thin or uneven stands, partly because their drills placed the seed too deep. Extra firm seedbeds may be needed when a drill is used; broadcasting seed and rolling or irrigating afterward might work better.

Seedlings also need a week or so of moist soil to become established well enough to survive. This shouldn't be a problem with irrigation, but dryland growers have had some failures, especially when planting after wheat.

Knowing both the challenges and the benefits of growing and feeding teff can help you select whether it's a good option for your livestock and operation.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist