Teff can be harvested and utilized as dry hay, grass silage or grazed by cattle, horses or sheep. Usually harvest as dry hay will maximize forage production and return per acre. Whichever the harvest method, harvest timing is important.
The first harvest of teff usually occurs 45 to 55 days after planting. For optimum forage quality teff should be harvested in the late vegetative stage, prior to appearance of the seed head. Many first time teff growers are fooled by teff’s 2 to 3 foot height at the sight of first heads and delay harvest. The canopy is thick, dense and carries a deceptive yield. Delaying harvest only hurts quality, increases the threat of lodging, slows after harvest recovery and reduces the total seasonal yield.
Leaving a 4-inch stubble is a must for rapid recovery after harvest. Teff, like other grasses, stores its reserves in its stems and a cutting height under 4 inches will remove too much stubble. Rotary mowers are especially prone to scalping the teff plant. The difference between the rate of recovery of a 2 inch versus 4 inch stubble is dramatic. However, if the harvest is the last of the season, then lower the mower and capture the additional yield.
Grazing teff planted on sandy soils may be more prone to being pulled from the ground than heavier soils. When possible, harvest the first crop as hay and graze the subsequent crops. Prussic acid or nitrate toxicity in teff forage has not been identified as a problem on late season or after frost grazing.
Teff dry matter yields across the U.S. usually average 1-1/2 to 2 tons per acre per cut. Depending on the length of the growing season, teff’s dry matter yields for the growing season can range from 4 to 8 tons per acre. On a dry matter basis teff compares favorably with other crops.
Whether fed on-farm or sold into the commercial hay market, a productive and well-managed field of teff can compete favorably with soybeans, cereals, perennial forages and other summer annuals. Utilize your state’s Extension Services Crop Budgeting Assets to compare teff versus other crops on your farm. Use average yields, local pricing and compare.