Establishment of Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus) as an Alternate Bedding Supply

2013 Annual Report for FNE11-719

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2011: $7,350.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Grant Recipient: Central Manor Dairy
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Steven Harnish
Central Manor Dairy

Establishment of Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus) as an Alternate Bedding Supply


This three year study examines the use of dried miscanthus as a replacement for wood shavings for use in dairy bedding. The establishment year is the most expensive and time-consuming, and the crop takes three growing seasons to reach full yields.

Objectives/Performance Targets

We successfully harvested the second growth of miscanthus on February 17th, 2013 using a Claas self-propelled forage harvester and row-independent corn head.  The only adjustment needed was to shorten the length of cut to make the miscanthus suitable for bedding.  The forage harvester drove slower than in corn in order to keep the head from plugging.  It would be possible to harvest faster by making adjustments to the header speeds, but we only had 2 acres to harvest.  


The plot yielded 5.25 tons of dry matter per acre.  We waited to harvest until the moisture percentage was down to 15%. From February 17th to March 19 I bedded the compost barn with chopped miscanthus on one side and kiln dried shavings on the other.  It’s important to note that the miscanthus side was previously bedded with shavings, so the miscanthus never made up more than 50% of the bedding as we were daily mixing the pack with a harrow. After a month of bedding I took samples and temperatures from 8 locations on each half of the barn.  The miscanthus stayed drier (37% moisture vs. 42.5%) and significantly hotter (129°F vs 120°F).  I don’t have any doubts about the suitability of miscanthus for a compost bedded pack.


For the third growing season of our miscanthus plot absolutely no work was needed before harvest.  Weeds were nonexistent except a few Morning Glories outside the plot that sent runners up one clump of Miscanthus stems. From May to October the miscanthus plants experienced the same rapid growth as last year.  Rhizome clumps are 20-24 inches in diameter.  There is still bare earth between clumps, so it is possible we could get higher yields in the future.  It remains to be seen what the limiting factor is for biomass production, it’s possible a higher population of stems would be limited by water or nutrients and wouldn’t produce more than we’re getting this year.


The tallest plants reached their maximum height of 12′ by October, most parts of the field were limited to 10-11 feet. I expect to harvest again in March 2014 with significantly higher yields.

As part of the outreach portion of this project I did an interview with the Lancaster Farming newspaper.  They ran a front page story on Nov 2, 2013.  The article can be viewed at  At the end of the article I extended the invitation for anyone to come watch the February 2014 harvest in person.  So far I have had 8 responses and will be updating those folks via email when I have a date scheduled.


Dan MacFarland

[email protected]
Extension Educator
112 Pleasant Acres Road
York, PA 17402
Office Phone: 7178407408