Scientific name(s)
Plant description
Pasture type and use
Where it grows
Animal production
Further information
Author and date
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Scientific name(s)

Dactylis glomerata; Dactylis glomerata ssp. hispanica



Plant description

Plant: Perennial, tufted grass, which under moist conditions develops distinct clumps with seed heads up to 130 cm tall. When grown under dryland conditions plants are much smaller. There are two main types:

Leaves: greyish to bluish green in colour and hairless. The emerging leaf blade is strongly folded and the stem is flat. Leaves are 10 to 80 cm long.

Seedhead: dense and spike-like in appearance when it first emerges, but with maturity, it becomes open and branched.

Seeds: very small, with 95,000 to 1,300,000 seeds/kg.

Pasture type and use

A valuable forage plant used extensively in long term perennial pastures for medium to high rainfall sheep and beef production.  Some Continental type cultivars have been developed for dairy production. Cocksfoot is also useful for hay production.

Where it grows


Some Mediterranean type cultivars have the ability to establish and persist in cooler areas that receive as little as 250 mm of annual rainfall. Intermediate type cultivars are recommended for the 425 to 700 mm rainfall zones. Continental type cultivars are recommended for areas receiving greater than 650mm rainfall.


Cocksfoot will establish on poor soils, but requires well-drained fertile soils to grow to its full potential. It performs well on shallow or deep soils, with textures ranging from clay to gravelly loams and sands, but is not well adapted to saline soils. It is adapted to acid soils, but performs best in soils with a pH (water) range of 5.5 to 7.5. It is more tolerant of high soil aluminium levels than phalaris.


Most cultivars available in Australia are tolerant of hot summers and cool winters. Strongly summer-dormant Mediterranean types are able to tolerate longer hotter and drier summers than are Continental types.


Companion species

Grasses: phalaris, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass.

Legumes: subterranean, red and white clovers, lucerne.

Sowing/planting rates as single species

2 - 6 kg/ha.

Sowing/planting rates in mixtures

1 - 3 kg/ha.

Sowing time

Autumn is more reliable, however can be sown in spring in areas with longer growing seasons.


Not applicable


New sowings will require fertiliser to promote early root development and enhance seedling vigour. Major nutrient requirements are phosphorous, nitrogen and sulphur depending on soil fertility. Soil test results and local knowledge of soil type and fertiliser history should determine rates to be applied at sowing.


Maintenance fertliser

Adequate levels of phosphorous, nitrogen and sulphur should be maintained for optimum growth.


When grazing in the first year, it is best to leave at least 1200kg dry matter per hectare (about 5cm in height), to allow the plants to recover faster and aid strong establishment. Once the stand is established, grazing should be managed to maintain legume presence. Cocksfoot can compete aggressively with clover species particularly annuals, especially under lax grazing. If a pasture has become too cocksfoot-dominant, heavy grazing or cutting at the stem elongation phase of growth prevents seed set. This should be followed by grazing in late summer to remove litter, allowing greater opportunity for other companion species, particularly annual legumes, to germinate and establish. While sufficient grazing pressure is needed to utilise growth and maintain nutritive value, avoid overgrazing tillers going into summer if seed-set is required. Also, allow plants to restore energy levels after the autumn break through lenient grazing. Summer growing cultivars should not be allowed to become tall and rank approaching autumn.

Seed production

Seed yields of 250 and 300 kg/ha are achieved in specialist seed production paddocks.

Ability to spread

Cocksfoot will spread slowly through seedling recruitment.

Weed potential

While the weed potential is low, it does have some potential to invade disturbed native vegetation.

Major pests

Pasture scarab larvae (cockchafer grubs, white curl grubs), Oncopera (corbie grubs)

Major diseases

Occasional leaf rust may occur in humid conditions in late summer.

Herbicide susceptibility

Susceptible to most grass selective herbicides.

Animal production

Feeding value

Cocksfoot herbage has marginally lower digestibility and crude protein than that of tall fescue, phalaris and perennial ryegrass. Some Mediterranean cultivars have higher levels of protein than Continental cultivars. However, feeding value of cocksfoot is largely a reflection of management rather than the inherent quality of the grass, and emphasises the need to manage cocksfoot to avoid the stand becoming bulky and rank.


Grazing management is important in maintaining palatability. Cocksfoot is highly palatable up to the four leaf stage.

Production potential

Under optimum growing conditions cocksfoot peaks at 70-80 kg dry matter/ha/day in spring and autumn,
dropping to 5-15 kg dry matter/ha/day in winter.

Livestock disorders/toxicity

No problems have been reported for stock eating cocksfoot.


Group Cultivar Seed source/Information
Mediterranean types (highly summer dormant) Kasbah Australian Herbage Plant Cultivars
  Sendace TasGlobal Seeds
  Uplands TasGlobal Seeds
Mediterranean types (moderately summer dormant) Currie Australian Herbage Plant Cultivars
  Gobur AusWest Seeds
Intermediate types (summer active) Porto Australian Herbage Plant Cultivars
  Oxen Seed Distributors
  Yarck VicSeeds
  Howlong Heritage Seeds
  Cambria -
  Grasslands Tekapo Wrightson Seeds
Continental types (summer active) Grasslands Wana Cropmark Seeds
  Megatas TasGlobal Seeds
  Grasslands Vision Cropmark Seeds
  Grasslands Kara PGG Seeds
  Ella -

 Denotes that this variety is protected by Plant Breeder's Rights Australia

Further information

TasGlobal Seeds
Stephen Pasture Seeds
Plant Breeders Rights - Database search
Seedmark -Pasture Grasses
AusWest Seeds - Pasture Guide
Grasslands Society of Victoria


Andrea Hurst, Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research Stuart Smith, Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tasmania

Belinda Hackney and Brian Dear, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries

Steve Clark, Department of Primary Industries, Victoria University of Melbourne

Grasslands Society of Southern Australia Inc. Australian Herbage Plant Register, CSIRO, 1967

Author and date

Eric Hall

June 2007