Producers seeking a dual-purpose forage — to be used first for haying and then stockpiling regrowth for fall and winter grazing — may find their answer in meadow brome.

“Meadow brome is known for its abundant regrowth after being cut,” says Montana State University extension forage specialist Dennis Cash.

Thus, across Montana and other Western states, he's seeing more and more stands of alfalfa-meadow brome mixes for haying and grazing.

Cash says the combination works well because meadow brome helps reduce bloat and crown damage, and appears to be more productive and winterhardy than orchardgrass.

In the past, meadow brome's biggest drawback was its poor seed production. But new varieties have recently been developed to address that limitation.

Specifically, the variety Montana was selected for fast regrowth, overwintering ability, grazing tolerance and seed yield, says Cash. He helped develop the variety, which was released in 2001.

“Montana has similar forage production to Fleet and Paddock (two Canadian varieties), but significantly higher seed production than Regar,” he says.

Montana meadow brome was developed predominately from genetics that trace back to the Paddock variety.

Another new variety, Cache, was released this spring, says Kevin Jensen with the USDA-ARS Forage and Range Research Laboratory in Logan, UT.

“It was developed under intensive rotational grazing, significantly outyields Fleet and Regar, and does well under drought conditions,” Jensen says.

Meadow brome is also proving itself in a multi-species Montana State field trial that has been under way for the past three growing seasons. The trial includes 30 of the newest varieties from several grass species. All of the meadow brome varieties (Fleet, Paddock, Regar, Montana and MacBeth) are outyielding the other species, including smooth brome, Cash reports.

Montana State is currently working to create another new meadow brome variety that has the improved seed production combined with even better yield and quality than previous varieties.

With these recent improvements, Cash says meadow brome is one of the best forage choices for beef producers in the Intermountain West. However, he cautions that meadow brome's ability to survive the humidity and disease challenges of states farther east is unknown. No studies have been conducted east of Colorado.

Alaska brome is also showing good potential in Montana State's multi-species trial.

“We have two Alaska brome varieties in the test — Hakari and Blizzard — and they are keeping similar production to the meadow bromes,” Cash says. The varieties are very winterhardy and tend to have the production of smooth brome.

“It's certainly a forage to watch,” says Cash.

Montana meadow brome is available from Seed Research of Oregon. Call 800-253-5766.

Cache Meadow Brome will be distributed this fall through the Utah Crop Improvement Association. Call 435-797-2082.

Hakari Alaska brome is available from Barenbrug USA. Call 800-547-4101 or visit www.barusa.com.

Blizzard Alaska brome is available from Cebeco International Seeds. Call 800-445-2251 or visit www.intlseed.com.