Get rid of foxtails

Foxtail Control in Pastures and Hayground


Foxtail is a problematic grass in pastures and hayground, and infestations need immediate attention. Small infestations of foxtail should be spot treated, while larger infestations require whole pasture renovation. Existing foxtail plants should be killed with an herbicide. A no-herbicide alternative is repeated tillage and rest during summer heat. And, since there are foxtail seeds in the soil, those need to be dealt with as well. Finally, the foxtail needs to be replaced by a strong stand of competitive grass and clover. A suggested treatment regimen for treating foxtail includes soil testing and fertilizing, herbicide treatments, working the ground, reseeding to a desirable species, proper grazing management, and monitoring for success.

Treatment Regimen

Soil Fertility

Make sure your field’s fertilizer program is correct so that desirable forages have proper growing conditions. Otherwise, weeds may continue to dominate your field. Be ready make any adjustments to fertility while you are working the ground during your foxtail kill. Soil amendments are more effective if worked into the soil compared to the topdressing method. Take a soil sample and have it analyzed at a certified lab for pH (acidity) and fertilizer levels (phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and boron). Publications on how to take a soil sample (EC 628), available laboratories (EM 8677), and fertilizing according to soil test (FG 63) are available from the Extension office or via the Internet. Search for or request publications by number.

Killing foxtail

Since foxtail is a grass, broadleaf herbicides do not control it. Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that will kill foxtail as well as most all other plants (grasses and broad leaved). Spray the pasture with glyphosate (Round Up or Honcho, for example). Wait 7 to 10 days and disk the ground to turn under the dead plant residue. At this time, incorporate any fertilizer amendments by tillage and go over the field with a roller to prepare a fine seedbed for your new forage crop. Allow any existing foxtail seeds to germinate by waiting for rain or applying irrigation, and then respray this new growth when sufficient plant material is present (about two weeks). For a no-herbicide alternative, the foxtail plants must be turned under and allowed to degrade in the dark, hot summer soils. Repeat as necessary.

Temporary pasture forage

It will probably take two or three times to kill the majority of foxtail plants germinating from the existing seed bank in the soil. Therefore, a series of annual crop plantings is needed as a temporary pasture. This will exhaust the foxtail seed bank, unless the foxtail is allowed go to seed again. Mowing of the foxtail has been ineffective, as the plant will send up another seed head. Foxtail is generally known to be an annual plant, however, it has acted as a perennial in some situations, especially under irrigated systems. So, after the respray (see above), do not rework the soil, rather drill or broadcast annual ryegrass or a cereal grass (oats and peas, for example) at a high rate. This forage may be grazed or hayed as a temporary crop.

Permanent Pasture

Once you are satisfied that the foxtail problem is controlled, plant a permanent pasture after the last spray of glyphosate. Plant new seeds of desirable forage without reworking the ground. Be sure to choose forage plants that are suited for your pasture site (drainage, intended use, irrigation, etc.) and have taken steps to correct any soil fertility problems. Once your new pasture is established, proper grazing management is essential for maintaining a healthy pasture. Be careful to maintain a minimum pasture stubble height (3” for fescue or orchardgrass; 2” for ryegrass) and use some type of rest-rotation grazing routine. More information on plant selection (EC 1157, PNW 501, PNW502, PNW 503, and PNW 504) and grazing management (EM 8645, page 6) can obtained from the Extension office or on the OSU publications website. Search for or request publications by number.

How To Get Rid Of Foxtail Grass

Weed resistance has been a big problem for years and it’s been in North Dakota, in western Minnesota for several years. We’ve also identified a ccs or group one resistant green foxtail more in the northern area of North Dakota, along the Canadian border.

What Is Foxtail?

Foxtails are relatively commonly found in spring wheat that’s grown from western Minnesota on into Montana down into South Dakota as well. You could have a field where it’s primarily green, or you could have a field that’s primarily yellow. But it is important to know the difference in what you have in that field.

It’s important for a grower to understand the differences between a tough-to-control weed in a resistant weed because that will play into how we controls that weed, what herbicide we are going to use, what site of action we might use.

Here is a video about Green Foxtail:

How To Get Rid Of Foxtail

Green foxtail, for example, which grow is low in the canopy, oftentimes ends up in the bin when you start harvesting. So the green foxtail is very problematic from a doc you stamp it at Bayer CropScience. We also offer herbicide options for controlling green and yellow foxtail.

Wolverine will provide a very good option for controlling your yellow foxtail. We also offer borrow in husky complete, which will provide good control of your green foxtail as well as your yellow foxtails. These three herbicides also offer very good rotational flexibility.

There’s numerous strategies that a grower can employ to control green and yellow foxtail in their wheat. Start off with controlling the weed in your other crop since you’re rotating with.

If you’re growing soybeans as part of your production practice, or you’re growing corn as part of your production practice, it’s important to control the foxtail species in those years, prior to growing your week. Because anytime you let the weeds go to seed another crop, you’re creating an increased seed banks.

As you move into your wheat production, it’s important to have the right seeding rate and get a good stand. Having a good stand and canopy aground over as quickly as possible, shading out the soil so that you get less chance for the foxtail species to emerge. When sunlight interacts with the soil that is going to give you your best option for control it.


Getting Rid of Foxtails in My Lawn

April 2, 20170 found this helpful Best Answer

You are wise to be concerned about Foxtail being harmful as it appears to be one of the most dangerous weeds to dogs.
It appears that most recommendations are: 1) to pull by hand (which can be a very time consuming and back breaking job) and it is very difficult to remove all of the roots; 2) pour vinegar to soak the roots; 3) use a purchased urine product or use human urine and soak the roots. All of these solutions will have to repeated several times and you will have to thoroughly clean up any dead plants as the remains still pose a hazard for your dogs.

Foxtails are a true nightmare to a homeowner with or without pets. It does appear there are some chemical killers that will kill them and not kill the lawn but you still have to clean up the dead plants. Of course, per-emergence products are the best solution but that does not help with already growing plants.
I can only offer the following links that may help you decide what steps to take right now: Reply Was this helpful?

Kansas State University

(By Jared Hoyle, KSU Turfgrass Research and Extension)

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” – Benjamin Franklin

When I start talking about pre-emergent herbicides this quote from Benjamin Franklin always pops in my head. Although, Ben was giving fire-fighting advice to Philadelphians because fires were a dangerous threat at that time it does apply to many things we are dealing with right now, including spreading wild fires. (I won’t comment on that because I have no idea how to manage wild fires.) But I will talk about Pre-remergent herbicides.

Pre-emergent (PRE) herbicides prevent summer annual weed (For Example, crabgrass, goosegrass, annual sedges, and spurge) seeds from developing into mature plants. The reason we use PRE herbicides for summer annual weed control is because these summer annuals come back every year from seeds. So if we can stop the seed from growing then we don’t have to deal with the weeds later in the season.

For all that don’t know how a PRE herbicide works here is a very short explanation. They do not keep the seed from germinating but kill the young germinating plant. With few exceptions they have no effect on existing plants, so they must be applied before germination.

But like in everything in life there is an exception. Dithiopyr can kill crabgrass as long as it is young (two- to three-leaf stage, see photo below of three leaf crabgrass) and still have some residual for continued PRE activity. It doesn’t last as long as some of the other PRE herbicides but there is flexibility if you miss your window of opportunity to apply.

So when do I put out the PRE application for summer annual weed control? Well, it depends on many things. What summer annuals you have? Where are you located in Kansas? Many times turfgrass managers center their PRE applications around crabgrass germination. Crabgrass “typically” begins to germinate around May 1 or a little later in KS. April 15 is a good target date for applying a PRE because it gives active ingredients time to evenly disperse in the soil before crabgrass germination starts. The April 15 target works well for most of the state, but for southeast Kansas April 1 is more appropriate, and for northwest Kansas May 1 is best. Additionally, weather varies from one spring to the next (As we can see this year where it is getting warmer earlier!), and with it the timing of crabgrass germination. Some turfgrass managers base their PRE application around the bloom of the Redbuds but other ways can be used as well. Crabgrass germinates when the soil at approximately 1 cm deep reaches 55° F. So watch your soil temperatures to see when the soil consistently reaches 55° F. Here is a great website that will give you soil temperatures for your area.

PRE herbicides do not last forever once applied to the soil. Microorganisms and natural processes begin to gradually break them down soon after they are applied. If some products are applied too early, they may have lost much of their strength by the time they are needed. Additionally, PRE herbicides have different half-life, Koc, water solubility, and vapor pressure. This can determine how fast microbial, chemical and physical decay occurs along with infiltration, volatilization, leaching, and run-off.

Therefore, not all PRE herbicides are created equal. Here is a list of PRE herbicides, the weeds they target and some concerns that you might want to know before applying.

Active Ingredient Weeds Controlled Concerns or Comments
benefin summer annual grasses, annual bluegrass, some-small seeded broadleaves Do not use on golf course greens.
prodiamine summer annual grasses, annual bluegrass, henbit, chickweed, spurge, some-small seeded broadleaves Only apply to well established turfgrass.
bensulide annual grasses, some broad-leaves Do not use on putting greens composed of > 50% Poa annua.
florasulam broadleaves, dandelion, prickly lettuce, clover Packaged with Dimension 2EW, florasulam great cool temperature activity, Prevents flowering in some broadleaves (dandelions).
dithiopyr summer annual grasses, annual bluegrass, yellow-woodsorrel, some small-seeded broadleaves PRE and early post-emergence activity on crabgrass.
isoxaben broadleaves such as chickweed, henbit, spurge, plantain, others Tank-mix with a grass herbicide for broader spectrum.
pronamide annual bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, other grassy & broadleaf weeds. Do not use on cool-season turf. Restricted use pesticide.
pendimethalin summer annual grasses, annual bluegrass, yellow-woodsorrel, some small-seeded broadleaves Not recommended for turf severely thinned due to winter stress. Split applications can be made for extended control.
metolachlor annual bluegrass, crabgrass, sedges Do not use on cool-season turf.
simazine summer annual grasses, annual bluegrass, henbit, chickweed, spurge, some-small seeded broadleaves Do not use on cool-season turf.
ethofumesate annual bluegrass, annual grasses, some annual broadleaves See label for reducing annual bluegrass in cool-season turf.
oxadiazon summer annual grasses includinggoosegrass, annual bluegrass, some-small seeded broadleaves Ronstar G and Oxadiazon 2G are only formulations labeled for use on cool-season turf.
indaziflam annual grassy and broadleaf weeds in turf Do not use on cool-season turf.
oryzalin summer annual grasses, annual bluegrass, some-small seeded broadleaves Do not use on cool-season turf except tall fescue.
dimethenamid bittercress, crabgrass, goosegrass, purslane, sedges, spurge On golf courses: Can be used on cool- and warm-season. Other turf areas: Warm-season only.
siduron crabgrass, bermudagrass (suppression) Does not control goosegrass or annual bluegrass.

Information in this table was acquired from “Turfgrass Weed Control for Professionals” by A. Patton and D. Weisenberger, Purdue University (and 11 collaborating states including Kansas). For more information about purchasing this publication see;

New Weed Control Publication For Turfgrass Professionals

***There are many combination PRE herbicides that combine these active ingredients with each other and with other POST-emergent herbicides***

Always remember to READ THE LABEL for the correct rate, turfgrass tolerance, and specific instructions before application!!!

***Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is solely for identification purposes and does not imply recommendation or endorsement, nor is criticism implied of similar products not mentioned by Kansas State University.***

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The foxtail season is here!

Every spring brings lovely weather, new plant life cycle, wildflowers, and foxtail seeds. Also known as grass awns, the foxtail weed can be hazardous to your lawn, as well as your pets.

Foxtail is an annual type of grass that rears its head in the summer months. It gets the name from the seed heads it forms, which look exactly like the foxes’ tails. There are a few different varieties of foxtail – yellow, green, and giant. The yellow foxtail is the smallest and the most prevalent in yards and lawns. Foxtail grass can grow in various conditions and can be found in both dry and moist soil. It has flat and wide lead blades that look similar to crabgrass, however, is different from crabgrass, especially when the seed heads grow in summer.

How to Identify Foxtail Weed?

As we already said, there are three species of foxtail weed which invade lawns in the US. There is yellow foxtail or Setaria pumila, green foxtail or Setaria viridis, and giant foxtail or Setaria faberi.

At a first glance, these plans have similar traits and some share brush-like seed head, but once they grow, they are all different. Foxtail grasses grow in thick clusters with yellow and green foxtails ranging 1-3 feet tall. The giant foxtail grass may grow up to 7 feet in height.

The blades are flat and usually vary in width (between ½ to ¼ inches in yellow and green foxtails). The giant foxtail blades are wider. Giant and yellow foxtails have hairy blades while green blades are smooth.

In the summer months, they mature and grow seed heads, yellow foxtail seedheads can grow up to 3 inches long. Green foxtails have longer and softer seedheads (the seedheads can grow up to 6 inches long) while giant foxtails have 7-inch seedheads.

These descriptions can help you identify foxtail in your lawn. If you have trouble identifying the weed, contact our experts via email or phone. We will get back to you with the correct identification of the plant and give you the best product recommendations to get rid of foxtails.

Where to Look For Foxtail Grass?

Foxtails thrive in areas that are disturbed or undergoing stress, for example, gravelly areas along the roads, croplands, cracks in parking lots and sidewalks that expose bare soil.

Keep in mind that foxtail prefers high temperatures and fertile soil, however, it is versatile and can also grow in poorly maintained soil. It is less likely to grow in undisturbed areas. Green and yellow foxtails are distributed all over the country while giant foxtail weed is usually found in the southeast region.

When looking for foxtail grass in your lawn, look for a bushy and unique seed head which looks like the tail of a fox. If you can determine how serious the foxtail problem is, you’ll which product to use. It can be a minor flare-up or worse – majorly taking over your lawn.

The Dangers of Foxtail

Did you know that foxtail weed is dangerous to pets?

Although it looks innocent, this plant can cause serious health problems to your pets. As a matter of fact, foxtail grass can be deadly.

Foxtail weed isn’t dangerous because it is toxic, but because of the seed awns. The awns have sharp bars that allow them to go into and under the pet’s skin. The barbs are curved in a specific way and because of that they don’t work their way out and keep moving deeper into the body. If not removed on time, this plant can cause internal damage.

We all know how much pets, dogs especially love to sniff. If your dog swallows or inhales foxtail weed, he could get seeds stuck in his nose, ears, throat, eyes or mouth. This can cause various symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, tearing, wheezing, and swelling. If your dog steps on a foxtail seed, he may start licking the paws. It is possible for dogs to get awls in the genitalia, which may cause severe pain. Keep a close eye on your pets and watch them closely for signs of sickness. If you notice something unusual, contact your vet immediately.

What is the best way to protect your furry friend?

Keep clear of all grassy areas and always check your animal. Give your pet a full search after they have been outside during the summer months. Check their:

  • Feet: Spikelets can get embedded in between pads and toes.
  • Eyes: Foxtails can cause discharge, redness, squinting, and swelling. They can lodge under the eyelid in the mucous membrane.
  • Coat: Foxtails can migrate to different of the body, become embedded deeply in the skin or ingested by your pet.
  • Ears: Once foxtail seed is in the ear canal, they can enter the middle ear, puncture the eardrum and cause hearing loss.
  • Nose: When foxtail seeds are embedded deep in the nostrils, they can cause distress by migrating into the lungs, nasal cavity, and in the brain.
  • Genitals: The urinary and reproductive orifices are at risk. If you have a dog who prefers to go to the bathroom in tall grasses, it is important to give him a full search after he is finished.

3 Ways to Keep Your Lawn Foxtail-Free

At the beginning of the summer season, you start to notice those fluffy and prickly weeds that seem to grow high and out of control. Yup, those are foxtails and they can fill the air surrounding your home with seeds that can irritate you, your children, and your pets.

To keep your lawn foxtail-free this summer season, use one of these preventative measures:

1.Use Pre-Emergent Treatments

Pre-emergent treatments offer excellent protection against foxtail growth. Get a pre-emergent herbicide and spay it across your lawn before the summer starts so you can prevent foxtail seeds from germinating beneath the top layer of your turf.

As the name implies, pre-emergent herbicides must be applied before foxtail seeds start to waft their way through the air directly into your lawn. The best time to apply pre-emergent herbicide is around the spring season.

Keep in mind that herbicides may lose their effectiveness. Additionally, high humidity, frequent watering, and other factors can reduce the effectiveness of herbicides. If some of these factors are present in the area where you live, consider using more applications of herbicide throughout the early spring season. That way you can ensure foxtail seedling growth is small and almost gone.

Even though herbicides are used to kill weeds and unwanted plant growth, they can cause damage to your respiratory system and your skin. Because of this, make sure you wear protective clothing and a suitable respirator while applying herbicide to your lawn.

If you don’t have safety equipment, leave the job to our professional lawn care company.

2. Spread Mulch (Protective Covering) Throughout The Lawn

If you can’t kill off seedling growth in the spring, your next option is to starve the seedlings of necessary nutrients. Even though there are a few different ways to divest foxtail seedlings of essential nutrients, the best way is to spread mulch throughout your lawn.

Mulch is a protective covering that absorbs moisture and blocks sunlight from reaching your lawn. If there are some areas of your lawn that are starting to grow foxtails, a layer of mulch (around 2-3 inches thick) will make it more difficult for foxtail weed to grow.

If foxtails are starting to grow in areas that have vegetation, the mulch will starve the vegetation of essential nutrients. There is one thing you can do to prevent mulch from destroying the vegetation in your yard – spread thin layers of mulch throughout popular areas.

If there are areas of your lawn that don’t have vegetation, they should be coated with a protective covering. Dead areas are likely to grow foxtails.

3. Grow a Competitor

Your lawn receives a certain amount of essential nutrients from sunlight and water. Rather than leaving these important nutrients available to foxtail grass, plant vegetation in your lawn will absorb these nutrients quicker before they can be utilized to foster unwanted plants.

By implementing these three preventative steps, you can ensure your lawn remains free of foxtail weed all summer long.

The Most Effective Herbicides for Foxtail

Here are the most effective and used herbicides for foxtail weed:

Pre-Emergent Herbicides

As we mentioned above, pre-emergent herbicides destroy foxtails before they emerge. The granular herbicide trifluran, for example, controls germinating foxtail seeds without affecting your already established plants.

First, you need to cultivate the soil and remove all established weeds. After you are done, spread at least 10 ounces of trifluran/100 square feet. Add ½ inch of water to mix in the herbicide and send it directly into the soil.

Other pre-emergent herbicides that are recommended for foxtail feed are pendimethalin and linuron.

Post-Emergent Herbicides

Post-emergent herbicides including metribuzin, fluazifop, and glyphosate control foxtail weed after the seeds have grown and the weed has emerged.

Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide and is highly effective when it comes to foxtail weed. However, this herbicide may harm other plants in your lawn.

To get rid of foxtail weed, dilute 4-5 tablespoons of glyphosate in 1 gallon of water. To prevent contact with other plants in your lawn, apply glyphosate on foxtail with a sponge applicator. You can also place a protective surface over your plants.

A pre-emergent herbicide will activate only if you water your lawn with ½ inch of water or if it rains within 2-3 days after you’ve applied the herbicide. Pre-emergent herbicides continue to destroy foxtail seeds 90 days after application. It is best to wait until a freshly seeded lawn has established before you apply a herbicide. The herbicides must go through foxtail plants and may not destroy the weeds until 2 weeks after application. After herbicides destroy foxtails, it is recommended to wait for new foxtails to establish before you apply the herbicide again.

Before you use any herbicide to get rid of foxtails, carefully read and follow the precautions written on the herbicide label. Long-sleeved shirt, protective socks and shoes help prevent contact with herbicides and chemicals. Don’t spray herbicides in windy weather or near water as it may become contaminated. It is also important to keep your children and pets away from areas where you’ve applied herbicides.

One Simple Household Product That Kills Foxtail

We’ve already established that herbicides can be used to destroy foxtail, however, they are toxic and often harmful to the environment. There is one simple household product that is highly effective and can kill foxtail weed quickly.

All you need to do is purchase white vinegar (pure vinegar). You need a concentration of at least 5% (higher concentration gives faster results). There is a concentration of 5% and 9% and can be purchased in supermarkets.

Find a clean spray bottle and fill it with white vinegar. If your skin is sensitive, don’t forget to wash your hands with any of the vinegar left onto them, especially if you are using a higher concentration of vinegar.

If it is possible, set the spray bottle to the option “stream”. This way, the vinegar will come out in a narrow stream of liquid. It is good to know that vinegar also harms grass, so any grass that is treated with vinegar will also die. If you happen to get your grass wet with vinegar, no need to panic. The turf spreads and will grow together over the areas where grass is lacking.

It is important to get as close to the foxtail weed as possible. Spray it vinegar. If you can, move closer to spray the base of the foxtails.

If needed, reapply the vinegar again, every week. Foxtail usually dies back within a few days, however, larger specimens.

Once the foxtail has completely died back from the vinegar application, pull it from the lawn.

Treat your beautiful lawn to make it fuller and thicker. Foxtail is a grassy weed that appears when lawns are patchy and too thin. Fuller lawns choke out the foxtail grass before they it grows. Depending on the patchiness in your lawn, use grass seed or fertilizer on existing turf to make it grow in fuller. If the grass is sickly and patchy, remove turf and lay new, fresh turf.

Foxtail Weed Control & Professional Weed Control Services

Foxtail weeds are an unwelcome sight for any lawn owner. Any weed can disrupt the aesthetics of a well-maintained lawn.

As foxtails spread across your beautiful lawn, they compete for nutrients and sunlight that your turf needs to grow. Unfortunately, mowing and watering speed their growth as well as that of your turf.

The good news is that you don’t have to let foxtail ruin your great lawn. With our lawn weed control services, you will be able to get rid of the most stubborn foxtail weeds. Our lawn care experts will provide you with the best treatments that work best to remove foxtails including pre-emergent weed control treatments that can help stop foxtails before they even start to grow.

For more information contact us here.


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Foxtail, any of the weedy grasses in the genera Alopecurus and Setaria of the family Poaceae. Foxtails are so named for their spikelet clusters of bristled seeds, which are dispersed as a unit and somewhat resemble the bushy tail of a fox. In some species, these units have a pointed tip and retrose (backward pointing) barbs and can become lodged in the ears and nostrils of dogs and other animals.

Meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis).A to Z Botanical Collection/Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

There are about 25 species of Alopecurus, which are distributed throughout the north temperate zone. Most species are perennials and bear dense cylindrical, often brushlike, flower clusters. Meadow foxtail (A. pratensis), which is native to Eurasia, is used as a forage grass in northern North America; it stands 30 to 80 cm (about 12 to 30 inches) high and has a light-green flower cluster 7 cm long.

The genus Setaria, also known as bristlegrass, includes nearly 125 species of annual and perennial grasses, mostly of tropical Africa but found in warm areas of all the continents. The plants are taller than those of Alopecurus, with bristly flower clusters and flat, thin leaf blades. More than 40 species are found in North America. A few are forage grasses, such as plains foxtail (S. macrostachya). Foxtail millet (S. italica; see millet) is the only economically valuable species. Yellow foxtail (S. pumila) and green foxtail (S. viridis), named for the colour of their bristles, are common in cornfields and disturbed areas. Bristly foxtail (S. verticillata), whose barbed bristles stick to animals and clothing, is also found in those places; the flower clusters from different plants may stick together, forming dense tangles. The name giant foxtail is applied to two weedy annuals: S. faberi and S. magna.

Foxtail millet (Setaria italica).Ingmar Holmasen

Green foxtail

Taxonomy Kingdom: Plantae Phylum: Magnoliophyta Class: Liliopsida Order: Cyperales Family: Poaceae Genus: Setaria Species: S. viridis Subspecies: S. viridis Scientific Name Setaria viridis
(L.) Beauv. Common Names green foxtail, green bristlegrass, bottle grass, green bristle grass, pigeongrass, wild millet

Green foxtail (Setaria viridis)

Author: The Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Colorado State Parks, and Colorado Natural Areas Program – in partnership with the Division of Plant Industries in the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Adapted from Appendix 4: Profiles of Colorado State-Listed Noxious Weeds, page 243 by Marjolein Schat, Montana State University

Identification and Life Cycle

Green foxtail (Setaria viridis), also called pigongrass, green bristlegrass, and wild millet is an annual in the grass family (Poaceae). Seedlings have hairless leaf blades and sheaths that are hairless except for short hairs along the margins. Mature plants are 1-3 feet tall, with erect stems that branch at the base. Leaves are flattened and usually less than 6 inches long. The leaf sheath is roughened and hairless. Leaves lack auricles and have a hair-like ligule. Flowers are cylindrical with crowded spiklets that are subtended by 6 to 10 long yellowish bristles. Seeds are oval and greenish to dark brown.


Green foxtail is commonly found in irrigated crops, lawns, gardens, along roadsides, streams, and waste places. It prefers moist medium to coarse textured soils.


Green foxtail is a nuisance in cultivated fields and irrigated valleys and can be a serious problem in spring-seeded alfalfa, small grain, and row crop where it can lead to yield reduction and increased cleaning costs.

Biology and Ecology

Green foxtail reproduces by seed. Green foxtail is a summer annual that overwinters as a seed. It emerges in April or May following periods of high rainfall. Flowering occurs from July to September and seeds can mature within two weeks of flowering. The seeds of green foxtail readily fall from the flower structures when mature. Green foxtail typically produces between 5,000 and 12,000 seeds per plant. However, the number of seeds per plant is highly dependent upon the size of the plant. Seeds are distributed by human activity, animals, birds, and water and can remain viable in the soil for up to 6 years.

Management Approaches

Control of greed foxtail depends on eliminating seed production until the soil seed bank is depleted.

Biological Control

There are no biocontrol agents available for green foxtail.

Mechanical and Cultural Control

In natural areas, green foxtail could be mowed or cut to prevent seed production, but repeated treatments are necessary to deplete the seed bank.

Chemical Control

There are multiple reports of herbicide resistance in green foxtail in France, Spain, Yugoslavia, Canada, and the United States. In the United States resistance has been reported for Dinitroanilines in North Dakota, and ALS inhibitors in Wisconsin. For a complete list of reports of resistance please see

Examples of herbicides that can be used to manage green foxtail

Consult herbicide labels for additional rate, application, and safety information. Additional herbicide information can be found at

Herbicide Active Ingredient trade name Mode of Action Product per Acre Application Time or Growth Stage
Quizalofop Inhibition of acetyl CoA carboxylase (ACCase)
*Assure II 7 – 8 ounces Apply when grasses are between 2 and 4 inches tall.
Sethoxydim Inhibition of acetyl CoA carboxylase (ACCase)
*Poast 1 – 1.5 ounces Apply before grasses reach 8 inches tall. Minimum time between application and harvest is 60 days.
Corn and Sorghum
Dicamba; diflufenzopyr; nicosulfuron Action like indole acetic acid (synthetic auxins), Inhibition of acetolactate synthase ALS (acetohydroxyacid synthase AHAS)
*Celebrity Plus 4.67 ounces Apply to actively growing green foxtail 2-4 inches tall when corn is 4 to 24 inches tall.
Peas and Lentils
Quizalofop Inhibition of acetyl CoA carboxylase (ACCase)
*Assure II 7 – 8 ounces Apply when grasses are between 2 and 4 inches tall.
Grass Grown for Seed and Fallow
Quinclorac Growth regulator
*Paramount 5.3 ounces Apply when annual weeds are small and actively growing.

The information herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and that listing of commercial products, necessary to this guide, implies no endorsement by the authors or the Extension Services of Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming or Montana. Criticism of products or equipment not listed is neither implied nor intended. Due to constantly changing labels, laws and regulations, the Extension Services can assume no liability for the suggested use of chemicals contained herein. Pesticides must be applied legally complying with all label directions and precautions on the pesticide container and any supplemental labeling and rules of state and federal pesticide regulatory agencies. State rules and regulations and special pesticide use allowances may vary from state to state: contact your State Department of Agriculture for the rules, regulations and allowances applicable in your state and locality.

Yellow foxtail

Taxonomy Kingdom: Plantae Phylum: Magnoliophyta Class: Liliopsida Order: Cyperales Family: Poaceae Genus: Setaria Species: S. pumila Subspecies: S. pumila Scientific Name Setaria pumila
(Poir.) Roemer & J.A. Schultes Common Names yellow foxtail, cattail grass, yellow bristle grass, yellow bristlegrass

Yellow foxtail (Setaria pumila), also known as pigongrass, and yellow bristlegrass is an annual in the grass family (Poaceae). Seedling leaves are hairless except for long, wiry hairs on the upper side near the base. Mature plants are 1-3 feet tall with erect stems that branch at the base. Leaves on mature plants are smooth, 2-8 inches long and 0.5 inches wide. Auricles are lacking and leaves have a hair-like ligule. The floral structure (panicle) is cylindrical, with crowded spikelets that are subtended by 5 to 10 long yellowish bristles. Seeds are oval, green to yellow to dark brown, coarsely roughened, and approximately 0.12 inches long. Yellow foxtail has short fibrous roots. Yellow foxtail can be distinguished from other foxtails by the long white hairs on the upper leaf blades near the base, by the presence of five or more yellow or tawny bristles below each spikelet, and by the leaf sheaths which are smooth on the margins.

Yellow foxtail is commonly found in crops, along the edges of fields, roadsides, and in waste areas. It grows in a wide variety of soil types and environmental conditions. However, yellow foxtail prefers full sunlight and does not persist in shaded sites.

Yellow foxtail can be a serious problem in spring-seeded alfalfa, row crops, and small grain crops. It can cause reductions in yields and increased cleaning costs. If consumed in sufficient quantities, yellow foxtail can cause stomatitis in cattle and horses.

Yellow foxtail reproduces exclusively by seed. Seedlings begin to emerge in may and yellow foxtail begins to tiller two weeks after emergence. Flowering and seed production occur from July through September. Yellow foxtail is self-pollinated and seeds begin to form even before the floral structure emerges from the surrounding leaf. The number of seeds produced per plant depends upon environmental conditions but has been reported to range from 540 to 8,460 seeds per plant. Seeds may remain viable in the soil for over 10 years. Seeds are dispersed by machinery, wind, and animals.

Control depends on eliminating seed production until the soil seed bank is depleted. Herbicides are commonly used to control yellow foxtail.

There are no biological controls available.

Close grazing by sheep can prevent a new crop of seeds from being shed. In natural areas, yellow foxtail can be mowed to eliminate seed production. However, since seeds may remain viable in the soil for over 10 years, repeated treatment may be necessary to deplete the soil seed bank.

Examples of herbicides that can be used to manage yellow foxtail

Consult herbicide labels for additional rate, application, and safety information. Additional herbicide information can be found at

Herbicide Active Ingredient trade name Mode of Action Product per Acre Application Time or Growth Stage
Sethoxydim Inhibition of acetyl CoA carboxylase (ACCase)
*Poast Plus 1.5 – 2.25 pints Apply before grass reaches 8 inches in height. Apply no later than 14 days before cutting. Poast Plus may be applied to seedling or

established alfalfa and clover grown for hay, silage, green chop, direct grazing, or for seed.

Peas and Lentils
Quizalofop Inhibition of acetyl CoA carboxylase (ACCase)
*Assure II 7 – 8 ounces Apply to emerged weeds 2 to 6 inches tall. For best results apply when weedy grasses are in the 3-leaf to boot stage.
Grass Grown for Seed
Quinclorac Growth regulator
*Paramount 5.3 ounces Apply when annual weeds are small and actively growing.
Small Grains
Glyphosate Inhibition of EPSP synthase
*Roundup Ultra Dry 9.5-19 ounces Apply to actively growing weeds 6 to 20 inches tall in the spring or fall, before planting or emergence of the crop. Also may be applied prior to harvest or after harvest

The information herein is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and that listing of commercial products, necessary to this guide, implies no endorsement by the authors or the Extension Services of Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming or Montana. Criticism of products or equipment not listed is neither implied nor intended. Due to constantly changing labels, laws and regulations, the Extension Services can assume no liability for the suggested use of chemicals contained herein. Pesticides must be applied legally complying with all label directions and precautions on the pesticide container and any supplemental labeling and rules of state and federal pesticide regulatory agencies. State rules and regulations and special pesticide use allowances may vary from state to state: contact your State Department of Agriculture for the rules, regulations and allowances applicable in your state and locality.

For more information and images please visit IPM Bugwood.

The pasture on 8/3/2017 after two seasons of rehabilitation.

Foxtail (Hordeum murinum) is a pest plant that can dominate pastures on the Central Coast. It’s not particularly good forage for livestock and the seed heads often get stuck in eyes, ears, and noses of livestock and pets. This annual grass is difficult to control, but that didn’t stop Michael Cent, local landowner and pharmacist, from trying. Mr. Cent lives in San Juan Bautista (San Benito County) and has a 2.3 acre pasture that was infested with foxtail when he first bought the property. This article is a case study exploring Mr. Cent’s efforts to reduce foxtail and encourage more desirable plants to grow.

The pasture in 2015 when it was dominated by foxtail. Photo credit: Michael Cent.

The Pasture

The pasture was a horse pasture for many years, but the most recent previous owners used it as a llama pasture. The water table is high in the pasture as San Juan Creek is located just on other side of fence. The three primary problem plants in the pasture are cheeseweed (Malva parviflora), bristly ox-tongue (Helminthotheca echioides), and foxtail (Hordeum murinum). Desirable species in the pasture include perennial rye and Harding grass. The Cents do not have animals in the pasture year-round, but use targeted goat grazing during the growing season to help achieve their vegetation management goals.

Cheeseweed Bristly ox-tongue Foxtail


With Mr. Cent’s background as a scientist, he turned his foxtail problem into a science project. He thought the best approach to control foxtail would be to seed the pasture with plants that would outcompete it. First he tested the pasture’s soil for pH and nutrients. Then he came up with a list of 19 plants to consider for seeding:

  1. Birdsfoot trefoil
  2. Blando brome
  3. Buckwheat
  4. Cicer milkvetch
  5. Crimson clover
  6. Drover tall fescue
  7. Gala grazing brome
  8. Iron clay cowpeas
  9. Kentucky 32 (tall fescue)
  10. Kingston perennial rye (a cultivar of perennial ryegrass, Festuca perenne)
  11. Lana vetch
  12. Pearl millet
  13. Phacelia
  14. Plantain
  15. Red clover
  16. Sainfoin
  17. Six point chicory
  18. White clover
  19. Zoro fescue

Mr. Cent answered the following questions for each species:

  • Is it drought tolerant?
  • How quickly does it grow?
  • Is it annual or perennial?
  • Is it affected by frost?
  • What soil pH range is required?
  • Does it cause bloat in livestock?
  • Does it require substantial amounts of Phosphorus or Potassium?
  • What are the associated companion plants?
  • How much does the seed cost?
  • Is the seed local available?

For each species, most of these questions were answered using its Plant Profile in the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Plants Database ( Within the Plant Profile, for most plants, you can also find a Fact Sheet and/or Plant Guide which contain valuable ecological information.

Based on the answers to these questions, Mr. Cent narrowed the list down to 12 species:

  1. Birdsfoot trefoil
  2. Buckwheat
  3. Crimson clover
  4. Gala grazing brome
  5. Harding grass
  6. Iron clay cowpeas
  7. Kenland clover
  8. Kingston perennial rye
  9. Lacey phacelia
  10. Lana vetch
  11. Plantain
  12. Six point chicory

To keep shipping costs down he purchased what seed he could from L.A. Hearne in Prunedale. The remainder was purchased online. Mr. Cent was particularly interested in six point chicory, gala grazing brome and Kingston perennial rye, so before seeding on a larger scale, he seeded those species into small test plots and found that they persisted through heat of summer, even without watering.


If you don’t own a tractor, it’s handy to have a neighbor who does. Luckily Mr. Cent had a neighbor who let him use his tractor. To prepare the pasture for seeding, Mr. Cent would have ideally used a disc, but he used what he had access to, which was a claw. He used the claw across the entire pasture to break up the soil. Then he hand seeded the grass and broadleaf seeds into the pasture. So far, he has seeded during two years: fall of 2015 and fall of 2016. Species seeded in the second year were those that were successful in the first year. There is no irrigation in the pasture.

Targeted Goat Grazing

March 2016: 30 goats grazing the pasture. Photo credit: Michael Cent. In addition to seeding the pasture, Mr. Cent contracted with Green Goat Landscapers, based in Morgan Hill, to bring in goats to graze the foxtail. Sometimes targeted grazing operations will use goats and sheep together, but at this site, only goats were used because of concern that sheep would eat the vegetation down to the roots, potentially destroying the Harding gass throughout the field. The goal of grazing was to reduce both the weeds and fire fuels. Timing of grazing depended on when the ground dried up enough to have grazing animals and the availability of the goat contractor. In 2016, 16 goats grazed over a period of three months during the growing season. In 2017, 40-50 goats were brought to the pasture in February for about 3-4 weeks. With such low numbers in 2016, the goats didn’t eat the foxtail, but when the density increased the following year, they did eat it. Mr. Cent prefers goat grazing to occur in mid- to late-spring, so by the time the goats leave the property there will be very low soil moisture and the vegetation won’t grow up again until the next fall. That way no mowing will be required after the goats are gone. Targeted grazing will continue in the future each spring.

Mr. Cent’s Observations on Seeding Results

Birdsfoot trefoil

Birdsfoot Trefoil The pasture’s soil was tested for pH and nutrients to help determine which species to seed. But plants don’t always do what you expect them to do. Birdsfoot trefoil grew well in areas it was not expected to, based on soil pH/nutrients. This species grew later in the season and seems to be well adapted to drought. When established, it formed a dense carpet that choked out everything. Trefoil attracted bees, especially bumble bees. Mr. Cent expects the seeding will be successful so will seed more next year.

Crimson clover

Crimson clover germinated and grew quickly early in the season. However, this species did not grow as well as anticipated in 2017 so will not be seeded again.

Gala grazing brome

Gala grazing brome did not do well in the pasture. This species looks similar to Bromus carinatus, a native perennial grass.

Harding grass

Harding grass Harding grass was seeded specifically to outcompete the bristly ox-tongue. It is palatable to livestock and should outcompete undesirable grasses, but it is clumpy and difficult to mow. One portion of the pasture was seeded heavily with Harding grass and six point chicory. Neither species had come up by 6/8/2017. This field was soggy for an extended period of time due to the heavy winter rains and Mr. Cent hypothesized this may have affected germination rates this year.

Iron clay cowpeas

Iron clay cowpeas are expected to compete with foxtail in the early season. This species was seeded in pasture, but was not successful. Cowpeas are frost sensitive and either seedlings died or it never germinated at all. Buckwheat seed was mixed with cowpea seed.

Kenland clover

Kenland clover was slow to establish but is showing exceptional drought tolerance. It started growing very well in early June. However, overall it is not as successful as he had hoped.

Kingston perennial rye

Kingston perennial rye Kingston perennial rye was quick to establish and is showing good drought tolerance. This year was an above average rainfall year so ryegrass is more robust than normal. This seeding was very successful.

Lacey phacelia

Flowers of this species were palatable to the goats and they seemed to prefer it. It also provided a food source for bees and other pollinators. Phacelia was seeded in both years, but only came up in first year. Rainfall was average in the first year compared to well above average in the second year. Mr. Cent hypothesized that it did not grow well in the second year because rainfall was too high.

Lana vetch

Lana vetch did not do well the first year so was not seeded again.


Plantain has been slow to establish but is increasing in cover over time and is showing good drought tolerance. Plantain was added to the mix because it is a companion to six point chicory and is highly palatable to livestock.

Six point chicory

Six point chicory Six point chicory was palatable to the goats, has a long taproot, thrived in summer, and can grow taller than 5 feet. This species can be planted in any desired density and might be effective and outcompeting many weeds. It was seeded in an area that had a high density of cheeseweed and has been effective at reducing the cheeseweed. However, chicory appeared to have created good habitat for gophers so if you don’t want gophers, chicory would not be a good choice. Goats striped chicory leaves and rubbed their heads on stalks.

Mr. Cent was also interested in finding companion plants to seed together. Based on his research, he found that plantain seed was often mixed with chicory seed, so he included plantain seed in the mix with chicory. During the first year plantain was not as successful as chicory. This year it’s coming up better.


The California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) weather station in San Juan Valley indicates that the 19-year rainfall average for that area is 13 inches ( Some data are missing for this weather station from the 2017 water year, so to give a sense of the difference in rainfall over the last 2 years, Hollister rainfall is given below. Hollister is about eight miles east of San Juan Bautista.

The Western Regional Climate Center has weather stations throughout the west. The weather stations are called RAWS (Remote Automatic Weather Stations). Data from the Hollister RAWS station indicates that the 14-year average annual precipitation is 10.3 inches ( Water year 2016 (October 1, 2015-September 30, 2016) was 11.7 inches, slightly above average. Water year 2017 (October 1, 2016-September 30, 2017 was 16.5 inches, substantially above average.

Because rainfall was so different in these two years when Mr. Cent seeded his pasture, it’s difficult to know which species will survive in the long-run, but he will likely keep experimenting! He understands that rehabilitating the pasture and controlling foxtail is not a one or two year project, but a much longer project, maybe five years or more. But, good research beforehand should bring quicker success. And it has! While there is still foxtail in the pasture, it’s is substantially less than it was prior to seeding and goat grazing.

24 May Foxtail in Horses: Removal & Treatment

Posted at 11:40h in Health, Horse Tips by Carmella Abel

If your horse is suffering from open wounds in its mouth, one of the culprits may be a grass called foxtail. The thistles from foxtail can leave horrible damage throughout your horse’s mouth, causing them discomfort and pain. When one of my horses was dealing with mouth ulcers caused by foxtail, I couldn’t find any information on how to treat it. After asking around, some of my local horse folk gave me a solution that worked great.

So how do you treat a horse suffering from foxtail ulcers in its mouth? The only way to treat mouth ulcers caused by foxtail thistles is to thoroughly remove the thistles from the wounds and apply saline solution as an antiseptic.

Treating foxtail ulcers is no easy task; it’s painful for the horse and you have to maneuver around in their mouth. If you’re ever uncomfortable doing this, the best thing to do is to call the vet. However, if you do decide to treat it yourself, the process is relatively simple and you’ll see results quickly. Keep reading to learn how to recognize that your horse has eaten foxtail, how to properly treat it, and how to keep your horse from ever eating it.

What is Foxtail?

Foxtail is a type of grass that has long stems with seed pods at the tip. If you ever need to identify foxtail, it’s good to know that the seed pods on the end resemble a fox’s tail or a hairy caterpillar.

Foxtail isn’t an uncommon plant, rather it can be seen in the grass in your front yard or in the lovely meadow where you picnic. It may look pretty from afar, but once you’ve seen the damage it can cause to animals, you won’t think twice about having disgust for the grass.

The seedpods in foxtail are surrounded by green and yellow thistles and the seedpods themselves are coated with microscopic barbs. This part of the plant can lodge itself into your horse’s muzzle, gums, and tongue when consumed, causing mouth sores and ulcers.

Horses won’t usually eat foxtail grass outright. They’ll only eat it if the pasture that they’re turned out in lacks the supply of quality grass to graze on, in which case they’ll start eating more plants that they wouldn’t usually eat. Foxtail grass can also be found in lower-quality hay.

Horses are different from other livestock animals in the fact that their digestive systems are much more fragile. There are weeds and types of grasses that cows can eat that horses shouldn’t, foxtail being one of them. Hay suppliers will sometimes cater to both forms of livestock; they’ll have a cleaner field cut for horses while the field with weeds and other grasses will be cut for the cows. However, this isn’t always the case. That’s why it’s important to inspect the quality of hay before you purchase.

How to Tell If Your Horse Has Been Stuck With Foxtail

Since foxtail will mostly affect the inside of the horse’s mouth, it can be easy to miss when your horse has been stuck by the thistles. My POA pony had managed to get himself a one-inch wide foxtail ulcer at the top of his gum above his front teeth. I had to turn up his top lip in order to see it. If it hadn’t been for his profuse drooling, I would have never thought to check his mouth for any problem.

After I realized the extent of the damage that the foxtail had done to his mouth, I have set aside time in my daily routine dedicated to thoroughly checking my horse’s mouth, not necessarily for foxtail, but for anything that may be causing him a problem. If you develop this into your routine, you’ll be able to catch the damage much quicker.

Horses will give subtle cues to explain that there is something wrong with their mouth. Here are some of the things I’ve seen horses do particularly when it comes to dealing with foxtail ulcers in their mouth:

  • The horse will drool profusely.
  • The horse will toss its head
  • The horse will be uncomfortable with the bit
  • The horse won’t want its muzzle to be touched.

If you notice these signs in your horse, thoroughly check your horse’s mouth for problems. It’s important to check under the tongue as well as the roof of the mouth. These areas could be affected and no one would ever know. The best way to do this is to grab your horse’s tongue. You may need to get someone to help you, as most horses aren’t fond of this.

If your horse isn’t a fan of you looking in their mouth, you could try twitching their nose. Twitching is when you squeeze the loose part of their top lip in order to give them something else to think about other than you looking in their mouth.

Foxtail wounds will be evident in your horse’s mouth. There will be open wounds with the foxtail thistles sticking out of the area. You will also want to check the horse’s teeth. If you see the thistles and seed pods sticking out from the teeth around the gums, then your horse has clearly been ingesting foxtail.

It’s important to also check the horse’s muzzle for foxtail thistles. It can be hard to tell these thistles apart from the hair. The best way to do this is to look for irritated skin on the muzzle. Chances are if the inside of the horse’s mouth is being affected by the foxtail, the muzzle will be as well.

How to Treat Foxtail Ulcers & Sores In Horses

The most important thing to do once you notice the problem with foxtail is to rid your horse of the option to eat it. This can either mean that you remove them from the field that they were pastured in or you throw out the hay that they have been eating. You can check these sources for traces of foxtail; once again, you can look for the grass that looks like it has the hairy caterpillar at the end of the stalk.

Treating the foxtail ulcers will be no easy or fun task.; you’ll need the right supplies to do it. Here is a list of supplies I use to treat my horse for foxtail ulcers in their mouth:

  • Saline solution
  • A syringe
  • Tweezers
  • Paper towels

Have these items ready before you start the process of removing the thistles from the horse’s mouth.


When your horse has foxtail ulcers in its mouth, it will be salivating profusely; this does no good for the ulcer. It keeps the area moist which makes it easier for the foxtail thistles to sink deeper into the skin. I had a veterinarian tell me once that they saw foxtail thistles migrate all the way through the horse’s gums and out through the horse’s mane. This is scary. The thistles will need to be removed to avoid any further damage to your horse.

The first thing you’ll want to do is fill your syringe with the saline solution and squirt it over the affected area. The saline solution works great as an antiseptic, keeping infection out of the wound. The saline will also cause the area to dry out, which in turn will push the thistles pack to the surface. Be careful while doing this, as the saline solution can sting the wound, causing the horse to react.


The next thing you’ll want to do is take the tweezers and pull the thistles from the wound. You’ll be surprised at the number of thistles and seed pods that can pack into the ulcer. In this process, the wound will probably start to bleed so you can use the paper towels or a cloth to wipe the blood away.


The final step is to keep repeating the process until you’ve removed all the foxtail from the wound. If it’s a large enough ulcer, this may take a few days. You’ll notice that one day you’ll remove all the thistles from the wound but more thistles will show up the next day. This happens because the thistles that have lodged into the horse’s body are being drawn to the surface.

Continue to pull the thistles out and apply a saline solution. Keep applying the solution until the wound is completely healed.

If your horse is suffering from sever foxtail ulcers and you’re not having much luck removing the foxtail thistles, then it is time to call the veterinarian. The vet can sedate the horse and remove all the thistles in even the hardest to reach areas.

How to Avoid Foxtail Lesions in Your Horse

The best way to avoid foxtail lesions in your horse’s mouth is to first, check their mouth on a daily basis. This will help you catch anything before it becomes too serious. Keep a look out for signs your horse may display to show discomfort in their mouth.

The other way to avoid foxtail is to make sure that your horse has the proper amount of good grass in their field to graze on. When good grass runs out, horses will turn to weeds, bark, and leaves to meet their needed daily intake. Their digestive systems aren’t used to these things, so it may pose even a greater health risk to your horse.

Check hay quality before you buy from a hay supplier. Hay that has foxtail and thorny weeds consistently throughout it will not be good for your horse.

Just like the saline solution I used as an antiseptic for the foxtail ulcers, there are many more natural remedies out there that are very effective at helping your horse. If you’d like to learn more about natural remedies for horses, .

By Daniel Hudson, UVM Extension Agronomist

Vermont farmers have been noticing a species of grass that has been increasing its presence in local hayfields and pastures. From a distance the seed head of this grass looks like that of timothy, but farmers know it cannot be because the seed heads of this grass emerge several weeks before most other grasses, while timothy is typically the last grass species to produce seed heads. This grass is called meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis L.) and has been spreading in Vermont for more than a generation – probably much longer than that. This species is native to Eurasia and has adapted to regions within most of the states and provinces of the U.S. and Canada.

Meadow foxtail is a long-lived perennial grass that thrives in moist and/or fine-textured soils and is intolerant of drought. Early seed production, vigorous seedlings, rhizomes, and rooting from lower nodes allow this plant to form a sod and it can quickly dominate pastures and hay fields under certain conditions.

While meadow foxtail is quite responsive to nitrogen inputs, its yield potential is lower than most forage grasses used in dairy systems. As a pasture species, characteristic early maturity causes reduced palatability early in the grazing season. In the Northeast, once the coarse stems of the first growth are removed, the vegetative regrowth is palatable to livestock throughout the grazing season. In drier climates, the palatability is said to decline during the grazing season.

The viability of seeds in the soil seed bank is not known but is thought to be relatively short. While meadow foxtail seed can be purchased, there are no improved cultivars available in the U.S. and most commercially seed available here is probably from feral populations in the state of Oregon.

Concerns about yield and forage quality

picture from University of Minnesota

It is intuitive that early seed head production translates to ‘stemminess’ and ‘low forage

quality’ in the minds of dairy farmers and dairy nutritionists. While that association is legitimate and of serious concern, some dairy farmers have decided that they have no choice but to live with meadow foxtail. In their estimation, the cost of taking land out of production for a year to eradicate the meadow foxtail and then reseeding would take a very long time to recover.

Interestingly, farmer testimony suggests that the forage quality from fields infested with meadow foxtail is not as bad as they expected is corroborated by research done in Alberta in 1987 – 1989. This research project investigated total dry-matter yield, leaf to stem ratios, crude protein levels, ADF/NDF levels, and digestible organic matter levels of meadow foxtail compared to other forage grasses. Comments about the study are here limited to contrasting the yield and qualities of meadow foxtail and orchardgrass only. The data from the second year of the research (1989) was probably more relevant than that from 1987 because the grasses were harvested in 1989 had at forage quality levels dairy farmers often target, while the 1987 crop did not.

How did the yield of meadow foxtail compare with orchardgrass? In this case, the three-cut forage dry matter yield of the meadow foxtail was 22% lower than orchardgrass. This is a serious problem, but it is important to keep in mind that many of our perennial hayfields and pastures in the Northeast are composed largely of Kentucky bluegrass and other grasses which also have a considerably lower yield potential than orchardgrass under normal management. It is worth noting that modern orchardgrass cultivars are probably much higher-yielding than the variety used in 1989 while the yield and quality characteristics of meadow foxtail probably have not improved since then.

Just how stemmy is meadow foxtail compared to orchardgrass? VERY STEMMY. To describe the relative stemminess of the grasses the researchers basically separated the leaves and stems then dried and weighed them to establish leaf/stem ratio for each cutting. In 1989 for each ton of orchardgrass leaves, there were 0.59 tons of stems; and for each ton of meadow foxtail leaves, there were 1.72 tons of stems! Because dairy farmers and nutritionists typically equate stemminess with high fiber levels, these ratios may lead us to believe that the meadow foxtail has extremely poor forage quality.

So what about the protein and fiber levels? Considering the relative stemminess of the meadow foxtail, the results of this part of the study were counterintuitive. To begin, the protein levels of analogous plant parts (stem vs leaf) was the same or higher for meadow foxtail as it was for orchardgrass. On a whole-plant basis, meadow foxtail had higher protein levels for cuts 1 and 2, but the average for the year was not significantly different. Neutral detergent fiber (NDF) levels were not different for any cuttings, while acid detergent fiber (ADF) levels differed only for the first cutting, with orchardgrass and meadow foxtail at 18% and 21% ADF, respectively. In vitro digestible organic matter (IVDOM) averaged 3% higher for orchardgrass. To summarize, meadow foxtail is not as nasty a feed as you might think by looking at it. The data from 1989 suggests that the biggest downsides meadow foxtail had compared to orchardgrass were a 22% lower yield and slightly higher ADF levels in the first cutting.

Management implications

Once meadow foxtail is in your fields, it will be difficult to eradicate completely. The seeds move with harvest machinery, animals, and to a lesser degree, wind and water. In fields with a significant amount of meadow foxtail, taking the first cutting early will reduce the spread of viable meadow foxtail seeds and result in better forage quality. Depending on the other species of grasses you have in your field, a wick-application of glyphosate might be an option to vastly reducing the amount of meadow foxtail in your fields, although some collateral damage is impossible to avoid.

Should you want meadow foxtail in your fields? No, but you need to run the numbers carefully to see if it is worth trying to eradicate it from your field if it is there already. If your fields are in a conventional (i.e., not organic) rotation, then the next rotation to corn has the potential to all but eradicate it from the field for a time. Staying in corn for two years with a cover crop in between would be even more effective. If you have some hay fields that are not in rotation with an annual crop, you should account for the annual yield losses and lower feed quality associated with this crop when making reseeding decisions.

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Plants that cause mouth blisters in horses


Ticklegrass embedded in horse’s mouth

These plants can cause physical trauma to the horse’s mouth, gut, and sometimes the skin.

Ticklegrass, sandbur and foxtail seed heads can embed into the horse’s lips, mouth, gums and lower gut when eaten. This is most common when baled in hay and rarely occurs in fresh forage.

The leaves of sandbur and foxtail don’t cause harm to horses. Horses can graze these but we don’t recommend them as a forage species.

Signs of trauma

  • Blisters or ulcers on the lips or mouth after eating these plants

  • Weight loss occurs from damage to the gut if horses eat these plants long term


Remove the plant source from your horse. You can provide supportive treatment for the blisters and ulcers such as rinsing with water or a topical cream.


Hay with a lot of ticklegrass (dark or purple areas)

Mowing is a relatively effective way to control all three grasses. Timely mowing can eliminate or reduce seed production.

In grass pastures or hay fields, there are no herbicides available for control of these grasses. Spot treatment with glyphosate is an option. But good pasture management will help reduce or eliminate weeds.


  • Foxtail and sandbur are annuals reproducing from seed.

  • Ticklegrass is a perennial.

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