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Cockspur grass (Echinochloa crus-galli) grain


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Barnyard grass, barnyard millet, barn grass, billion dollar grass, chicken panic grass, cocksfoot panicum, cockspur, cockspur grass, German grass, Japanese millet, Japanese barnyard millet, panic grass, water grass, wild millet [English]; bourgon, crête de coq, echinochloa pied-de-coq, ergot de coq, millard, millet du Japon, panic, panic pied-de-coq, panic des marais, panisse, patte de poule, pied de coq [French]; gewöhnliche Hühnerhirse, Hühnerhirse [German]; giavone comune [Italian]; canarana; capim-andrequicé, capim-capivara, capim-quicé, milha-maior, milha-pe-de-galo [Portuguese]; arrocilla, arrocillo, arroz silvestre, cola de caballo, cresta gallo, grama de agua, gramilla, gramilla de rastrojo, hualcacho, jaraz fina, mijo japonés, pagarropa, panicello, pasto colorado, pasto rayado, pata o pie de gallina, pierna o pata de gallo, zacate de agua [Spanish]; padi burung, dwajan [Indonesian]; song chang [Vietnamese]


Echinochloa crus-galli subsp. spiralis (Vasinger) Tzvelev, Echinochloa crus-galli var. edulis Hitchc., Echinochloa crus-galli var. mitis (Pursh) Peterm., Echinochloa spiralis Vasinger, Panicum crus-galli L. (basionym), Panicum crus-galli var. mite Pursh

Taxonomic information 

Echinochloa species are difficult to differentiate phenotypically and genetically (Renganathan et al., 2020). Two Echinochloa millet species are grown for food, and both are generally called "barnyard millet" in English: Echinochloa esculenta (A. Braun) H. Scholz and Echinochloa frumentacea Link. The denominations "Japanese" and "Indian" are sometimes associated to each species respectively due to their area of cultivation (Taylor, 2019). Both taxons are considered to be either individual species or subspecies of Echinochloa crus-galli: Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) P. Beauv. subsp. utilis (Ohwi & Yabuno) T. Koyama and Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) P. Beauv. var. frumentacea (Link) E. G. Camus & A. Camus.


Cockspur grain is the seed of the cockspur grass (Echinochloa crus-galli (L.) P. Beauv.), a tall, robust, tufted, quick growing annual grass cultivated in the tropics and subtropics for forage or for grain or both. The plant can be grazed before being harvested for grain. Cockspur is mainly considered a weed in cash crops like rice or maize and it can be used for soil reclamation. Like other species of the Echinochloa genus, Echinochloa crus-galli is often classified as minor millet crop.

Because various common and taxonomic names are used for Echinochloa crus-galli, Echinochloa esculenta and Echinochloa frumentacea, there is a considerable confusion in the litterature about these species (Taylor, 2019).This datasheet deals primarily with Echinochloa crus-galli, but food-type "barnyard millets" will be mentioned if necessary.


The grain is an ovoid or oblong caryopsis, 1.3-2.2 mm long x 1-1.8 mm wide, brownish in colour (SEINet, 2017; Quattrocchi, 2006). It remains enclosed in the hulls after threshing. The grain is borne on spikelets of 2.5-4 mm long x 1.1-2.3 mm wide, disarticulating at maturity. The spikelets can be awned. The seed head resembles a hedgehog, hence the taxon Echinochloa which means porcupine.


Echinochloa crus-galli is a dual purpose grass that can be grown for grain as a cereal or for forage (see the Cockspur grass forage datasheet). Its use as a staple food dates back 10,000 years: starch microfossils of this grain have been discovered with microfossils of rice and other species in Chinese wetlands (Yang et al., 2015). Food-type barnyard millets are used as staple. The grain is parched, roasted, boiled, ground into flour. It can be popped like popcorn. In Japan, it is used to make macaroni and dumplings. The grain is roasted and used as a coffee substitute (Deane, 2020). Indian barnyard millet can safely replace rice grain for some traditional preparations in India (Joshi et al., 2016).

The use of Echinochloa crus-galli (wild or food types) grain for livestock feeding is elusive, but it is widely reported to be well-accepted and consumed by many bird species.


Echinochloa crus-galli is native to Eurasia. It has been introduced into many countries for its potential as forage and is now widespread worldwide in tropical, subtropical and temperate areas, from 50°N to 40°S (Rojas-Sandoval et al., 2014). Cockspur grass is found from boreal moist to wet areas, and from tropical very dry to wet forest (Duke, 1983). It is mainly found in moist disturbed and degraded places like swamps, ponds and depressions or temporarily flooded palustrine wetlands, and seasonnally wet habitats. It is often seen around wet meadows, rice fields and along ditches, lakeshores and river banks (Quattrocchi, 2006). It can be found at elevations between sea level and 2500 m. It is well adapted to hot and wet conditions (Rojas-Sandoval et al., 2014). Echinochloa crus-galli grows where annual precipitation ranges from 310 mm to 2500 mm, and where annual temperatures vary between 5.7 and 27.8°C (Duke, 1983). It can grow in cooler areas, but does better where average annual temperatures are between 14°C and 16°C (Duke, 1983). Cockspur grass grows on poorly drained or flooded soils like silts and clays. It can grow in brackish water since it has tolerance of saline and alkaline soils, withstanding soil pH 4.8 to 8.2. It cannot stand shade and severe drought (Ecocrop, 2017; Duke, 1983). Cockspur grass is killed by fire but the seeds burried in the soil may benefit from fires to germinate (Esser, 1994).


Barnyard millet grains (Echinochloa esculenta or Echinochloa frumentacea) are less hard than that of other millet species like foxtail millet (Setaria italica) and kodo millet (Paspalum scrobiculatum) (Renganathan et al., 2020). However, like other millets, it may still be necessary to ground them before feeding them to livestock (Göhl, 1982).

Forage management 

Each cockspur grass plant can produce 40 000 seeds.

Environmental impact 

Weed potential

Cockspur grass is considered one of the world's worst weeds (Randall, 2012). It is listed as a weed in 36 crops and is particularly nefarious in rice paddies (Holm et al., 1991). One single plant per m² in a rice field can reduce rice production by 25% (Deane, 2020). Cockspur is a vigorous competitor for nitrogen (removing up to 80% available N) that can considerably crop yields and cause forage crops failures. It is considered worldwide as an in natural grasslands, coastal forests and disturbed sites, and may act as a reservoir for virus diseases (Rojas-Sandoval et al., 2014). In rice paddies, flooding with more than 15 cm of water favours rice seedlings since cockspur seeds cannot germinate at this depth (Ecocrop, 2017).

Erosion control and soil reclamation

Cockspur is useful for erosion control and habitat rehabilitation. In Egypt, it is used for reclaiming saline area (Ecocrop, 2017). It has been refered to as suitable for alkaline areas (Quattrocchi, 2006). It could help controlling erosion on coal mine sites in eastern USA (Vogel, 1981).


Cockspur grass is an important habitat for waterfowl and pheasant (Quattrocchi, 2006). In the Arizona, cockspur grass could grow on riparian sites flooded by wastewater and provide habitat rehabilitation for birds and subsequent avian colonization (Rea, 1988).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

The chemical compostion of the grain of Echinochola crus-galli is not very well known, due to the uncertainty in terms of nomenclature. From the few data available, its protein content is in the middle range for millets, about 10-12% DM. Barnyard millet (unspecified species) has a starch content in the 52-62% range (Serna-Saldivar et al., 2019). Starch from Japanese barnyard millet grain (Echinochloa esculenta) was found to be less degradable (in vitro method) than that of foxtail millet (Tomita et al., 1981). The fibre content of the grain seems generally higher than that of other millets. Crude fibre values ranging from 13.9 to 14.7% DM have been reported for the Indian barnyard millet (Serna-Saldivar et al., 2019) and from 9.5 to 14.0% DM for the Japanese barnyard millet (Himanshu et al., 2018). Much lower values have also been reported (6-7% DM) that may correspond to dehulled grains (Vargas et al., 1965; Ugare et al., 2011). Extremely high values for ADF ranging from 36 to 42% DM have been recorded for Echinochloa crus-galli grain from weed types (Harrold et al., 1977) or grown in "wild" conditions (Haukos et al., 1995). It is thus possible that weed-type Echinochloa crus-galli is more fibre-rich than food-type barnyard millet.

Potential constraints 

Barnyard millet grain (Echinochloa esculenta or Echinochloa frumentacea) was found to have the less amount of tannins of five millet species (Kulkarni et al., 1992).


Wild birds

Cockspur grain is appreciated by many species of wild birds, including songbirds, waterfowl, and wild chickens. They are an important source of food and cover for waterfowl in the Sacramento Valley (Mushet et al., 1992; McFarland et al., 1966; Arner, 1963). In France, they are readily consumed by skylarks (Alauda arvensis) (Eraud et al., 2015). In Tuscany, Italy, grain of wild Echinochloa crus-galli is cited as a traditionnal "reconstituent" for barnyard birds (Manganelli et al., 2001).

In geese, cockspur grain ranked second after rice in a grain preference trial. It was preferred to sorghum, seacoast bulrush (Bolboschoenus robustus), safflower, barley, and wooly-pod vetch (Vicia villosa)(Mc Farland et al., 1963).

In ducks, cockspur grass seeds seems to be readily digested as only a low (1.9%) amount of the grains were recovered intact in the faeces. It has been suggested that grains have been degraded in the digestive tract. The passage time of the seeds in the digestive tract was 5.1 hours (Mueller et al., 2002).


No information seems available in the international literature (June 2020) on the use in domestic rabbit feeding of Echinochloa crus-galli grain or grain byproducts. As mentioned in the cockspur grass forage datasheet), rabbits in the wild consume the seeds of the plant along the Illinois river for example (Ahn et al., 2004). In Australia, seeds are consumed by wild house mice as soon as the seeds are available on the plant in the fields (Bomford, 1987).

For all these reasons, the seeds can probably be used safely in rabbit feeding like conventional cereal grains such as barley or maize. The amino acid profile of these seeds is particularly deficient in lysine but compares favourably with that of wheat grain (AFZ, 2017; Harrold et al., 1977)

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 92.2       1  
Crude protein % DM 10.6   9.3 13.2 3  
Crude fibre % DM 14.3          
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 67.1   58.1 73 3  
Acid detergent fibre % DM 39.6   35.8 41.9 3  
Lignin % DM 9.5   7.2 11.5 3  
Ether extract % DM 6   2.6 8.3 3  
Ash % DM 10.2   9.5 10.8 3  
Starch (polarimetry) % DM 56.8          
Starch (enzymatic) % DM 54.5         *
Total sugars % DM 1.9          
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.3       1 *
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Alanine g/16g N 6.8       1  
Arginine g/16g N 3.3       1  
Aspartic acid g/16g N 5.9       1  
Cystine g/16g N 1.7       1  
Glutamic acid g/16g N 14.4       1  
Glycine g/16g N 2.7       1  
Histidine g/16g N 3.3       1  
Isoleucine g/16g N 3.2       1  
Leucine g/16g N 7.6       1  
Lysine g/16g N 2.4       1  
Methionine g/16g N 1.7       1  
Methionine+cystine g/16g N 3.5         *
Phenylalanine g/16g N 4.5       1  
Phenylalanine+tyrosine g/16g N 7.3         *
Proline g/16g N 5.9       1  
Serine g/16g N 4.2       1  
Threonine g/16g N 3.1       1  
Tryptophan g/16g N 0.8       1  
Tyrosine g/16g N 2.7       1  
Valine g/16g N 4.2       1  
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 2.3       1  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 6.3       1  
Potassium g/kg DM 8       1  
Sodium g/kg DM 0.11       1  
Magnesium g/kg DM 3.9       1  
Manganese mg/kg DM 69       1  
Zinc mg/kg DM 121       1  
Copper mg/kg DM 0.2       1  
Iron mg/kg DM 678       1  
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 43.5         *
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 8         *
MEn growing pig MJ/kg DM 7.8         *
NE growing pig MJ/kg DM 7         *
Nitrogen digestibility, growing pig % 52         *
Poultry nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
AMEn cockerel MJ/kg DM 14         *
AMEn broiler MJ/kg DM 13.7         *
Ruminants nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 90.2         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 87.3         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 13.2         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 82.9         *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 40         *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=4%) % 47         *
a (N) % 5          
b (N) % 73   10 80 3  
c (N) h-1 0.055   0.026 0.27 3  
Dry matter degradability (effective, k=6%) % 67         *
Dry matter degradability (effective, k=4%) % 73         *
a (DM) % 36   21 46 3  
b (DM) % 59   49 67 3  
c (DM) h-1 0.065   0.038 0.068 3  
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 8.5         *
MEn rabbit MJ/kg DM 8.3         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 46.4         *
Nitrogen digestibility, rabbit % 33.2         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Harrold et al., 1977; Haukos et al., 1995

Last updated on 07/09/2020 22:36:32

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Recoules, E, Lebas F., 2020. Cockspur grass (Echinochloa crus-galli) grain. Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/720 Last updated on September 8, 2020, 17:46