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Abstract The productivity and nutritive value of some cultivated perennial grasses, Bromus inermis (B), Elymus sibricus (S), E. nutans (N), Agropyron cristatum (A), Poa crymophila (P) and mixtures B + N, S + A, B + S + A, S + B + N, N + S + A, B + S + N + A, B + N + A + P, B + S +A + P and S + N + A + P, in the alpine region of the Tibetan Plateau were investigated. Elymus nutans and E. sibricus and the mixtures, B + S + N + A, B + S +A + P and S + N + A + P, were most productive with yields of dry matter (DM) of between 11 000 and 14 000 kg−1 of biomass annually in the second harvest year. Acid-detergent fibre (ADF) concentrations increased (P < 0·05), and crude protein (CP) concentrations and in sacco DM degradability values decreased (P < 0·05) with the maturity of the cultivated grasses. Swards, based on these species and mixtures, have the potential to be the main choices for cultivation in the Tibetan Plateau because they produce more nutrients than other grass species and mixtures. Late August (flowering stage of dominant grasses) is the optimum time for harvesting as the yield of rumen-degradable CP is highest that of DM relatively high and the DM degradability is satisfactory.