Benefits of Timothy

  • Timothy is a valuable and versatile grass for hay, haylage, silage and grazing.
  • It’s most valuable asset is its palatability. All herbivores will eat Timothy and most prefer it to all other grasses. Wether you are feeding rabbits, rhinos or just your horses, cattle and sheep, most will pick out Timothy before all other grasses. Feeding your herbivores Timothy means less waste.
  • Timothy makes the very best hay, and in the UK holds a premium over other grass hay. Not all grass can make good hay, but by using Timothy you will not be disappointed.

During the late 1800 until the early 1900’s it was a big cash crop, because hay was needed to feed the horses that propelled the machines of the day. As motor vehicles and oil driven machines took over the importance of the crop waned, but it still an important crop.

If you include timothy in your seed mixtures you will get a greater yield of palatable hay or silage. Timothy contains a higher percentage of protein than most other grasses. Timothy is a reliable species and is adaptable to different soil types. Scot's Timothy is the most winter hardy grass species. Accordingly timothy should be included in grass seed mixtures for both hay, haylage, silage as well as grazing mixtures. As this grass grows great in cold damp soil, it can give good early grazing.

  • Grows at lower temperatures than ryegrass so can be good for early season grazing, especially in cold, late springs.
  • Good mid-season growth can fill the the gap when ryegrass growth falters
  • Good winter hardiness and ground cover
  • Slow to establish but great longevity
  • Excellent palatability
  • Thrives in cooler, wetter areas
  • Will still produce during drought contitions
  • Good for extensive grazing and hay production

At the Agri Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI), at Loughgall, the grass breeding programme develops new forage grasses which are high yielding and persistent under local conditions. An extensive portfolio of varieties to suit all conditions is available through Barenbrug UK Ltd, and these are widely used on local farms.

"While the main grass breeding effort at AFBI is on perennial ryegrass, a small programme is also carried out on Timothy which is a very important constituent in grass seed mixtures, especially valuable on heavy or peaty land. It is very winter hardy surviving even the coldest conditions and at upland sites can make a useful contribution to spring growth for grazing. When used in mixtures with perennial ryegrass and white clover, Timothy is known to improve sward palatability and its growth rhythm, which is different to perennial, helps to maximise sward production.

Maximum yield from Timothy swards is achieved under high rainfall and during the very wet conditions which we experienced in 2012 the yield recorded from a replicated trial of 10 varieties at Loughgall was 20.0 tonnes dry matter per hectare. This compared with 15.0 tonnes per hectare from the same trial in 2011 when there was less rainfall.

In 2012 the variety trials at AFBI-Crossnacreevy showed clearly how Timothy yields decreased least amongst all the grasses in the exceptionally wet conditions that year. The average yield loss in 2012 compared to that reported in the DARD Recommended List average was 1.8 t per ha DM for perennial ryegrass, compared to only 0.5 t per ha DM for Timothy. At 18% dry matter this represents a fresh grass loss of 10 t per ha for perennial ryegrass but only 2.8 t per ha for Timothy.

So, while the yield advantage of perennial ryegrass means it must remain the major component of grass seeds mixtures, there is real value in including Timothy, especially if, as predicted, extreme weather patterns become more common.

Since 1990, the average air temperature for Northern Ireland in March has been 6.00C which is roughly the temperature at which ryegrass begins to grow. For an “early spring”, ryegrass needs a warm February and March such as in 2012, when air temperatures rose from 6.20C to 8.10C and animals could be turned out onto firm ground. In contrast, ryegrass does not grow actively in a late spring such as in 2013 when air temperatures only averaged 3.90C in February and 2.80C in March. Timothy, however, has a lower temperature tolerance for growth and a shallower root system that allows it to continue growing when soils get saturated. So it was less impeded by conditions in 2013 and, like the ryegrasses in 2012, it also responded to the good spring conditions but continued to bulk throughout the wet dull summer season when ryegrass performed far below its potential."