Mara stock is a versatile crop that can be used for hay, silage, or green chop. It is especially well-suited for grazing and can provide high-quality feed for lactating cows and sheep. The crop also has the potential for use as a cover crop to improve soil health.
Mara stock was developed by the USDA Agricultural Research Service. The plant was developed from a native grass in Ethiopia known as mara, which is drought-resistant and capable of surviving on marginal soils. This perennial legume is a warm-season type that establishes early and grows rapidly.
Mara stock forages are rich in protein (20-24% crude protein) and digestible fiber. Forage dry matter yields of 3-4 tons/acre can be expected during the first cutting about 90 days after planting if the crop is grazed or cut for hay before bolting (flowering).
Mara stock may be grazed until about 30 days before frost, but if it is allowed to flower, it will become coarse and unpalatable. Grazing or cutting for hay before flowering ensures that the height of subsequent cuttings can be controlled by mowing, which also facilitates harvest.
Leafy shoots emerge from a crown on most cultivars in late spring to early summer after soil is warm enough (about 55 degrees Fahrenheit). Shoots reach an average height of about 18 inches within 4 weeks. After shoots reach 6-10 inches in height, cultivars may be grazed or cut for hay (Figure 1).
To maximize yields and quality of Mara stock forage, grazing management must include treatments to control stalk height. If not controlled, stalks will grow taller than desired, making harvest difficult and reducing the quality of the feed. Grazing or cutting hay before flowering will keep plants at a desirable height.
Mara stock is a promising crop for improving soil health and providing livestock with high-quality feed. It is an excellent nitrogen fixer, and its ability to scavenge metals makes it a good choice for revegetating mining areas. The crop also has the potential for use as a cover crop to improve soil health. Grazing and cutting management must be considered to maximize yields and quality of the forage.
Pros and Cons of Mara stock
The pros of Mara stocks are that its a versatile crop that can be used for hay, silage, or green chop. It is especially well-suited for grazing and can provide high-quality feed for lactating cows and sheep.
The cons of Mara stock are that it is a slow-growing, cold-season perennial legume with limited potential to improve soil health. It establishes late, has low yields, and is not well-adapted to drought conditions. Overall, Mara stock is a good choice for livestock feed but may have limited potential to improve soil health.