||During the planting season of 2001, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife (KDFWR), Green River Region, started a native warm-season grass forage program in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Monroe County Office. A presentation of foraging and wildlife virtues of native warm-season grass was made to the local cattle producers in Monroe County prior to the 2001 planting season. During the 2001-2003 planting seasons, an average of 70 acres per year were established in Monroe County. Todd County Conservation District and NRCS office investigated the Monroe County plantings during the 2001 establishment period and, based on their observations, requested to participate in the forage project. Monroe and Todd counties have established approximately 300 acres of native
warm-season grass forage since 2001 and plan to establish approximately 110 acres during 2004. Eastern gamagrass was the grass of choice with the exception of big bluestem being planted in a
10-acre tract in Monroe County. In Monroe County, one producer implemented a weight gain analysis which showed a 2-pound per day gain in beef cattle grazing eastern gamagrass in paddocks designed for weekly rotation. In Todd County during the month of July, one herd of dairy cattle was grazed on eastern gamagrass. The dairy herd showed no reduction in milk production with the grass used as a partial replacement for alfalfa hay. There has been an overall
acceptance of the eastern gamagrass as a forage with the participating producers. One pacesetter producer planted eight acres in 2002 and 18 acres in 2003 and plans to establish 30 additional
acres in 2004. We are currently attempting to document the response of eastern cottontail rabbit to the native grass plantings. Anecdotal observations from the producers haying the native grass stands indicate an increase in rabbit sightings. Weed control was an ongoing problem during the establishment period. Several techniques were used in controlling the weed invasion. On the site with paddocks set up for weekly grazing rotation, crabgrass was a major encroachment weed.
When the gamagrass was between 4 and 8 inches tall, the cattle were turned into the paddocks to graze the crabgrass. Because the cattle were familiar with crabgrass, it was reasoned that they would graze it before the gamagrass. This proved to be the case, causing the crabgrass to be grazed down to ground level. Once the cattle showed an interest in the gamagrass, they were pulled back off the paddocks and put in cool-season pasture. Traditional methods of herbicide
treatment were implemented in the majority of the native forage sites. The sites that had two herbicide applications and then followed up with vigorous spot spraying during the establishment
period had excellent results. Going into the 2004 planting season, Monroe and Todd counties have approximately 150 acres scheduled to plant.