Planting clover in pasture | Living the Country Life

Planting clover in pasture

Improve forage quality and yields
Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota

If you want to boost the nitrogen and productivity in your pasture, plant some clover. Red clover and white clover are the most popular legumes. White clover is tolerant of grazing, but is not well-suited for hay. Red clover is often grazed, and can also be used as hay, haylage, and baleage.

Garry Lacefield is an Extension forage specialist at the University of Kentucky. He says research has shown several benefits when clover is established in cool season grasses, especially tall fescue.

"We can improve the overall yield, we can improve the overall quality, especially with the tall fescues that have the endophytes in them. We can improve the summer production; if we get some deeper-rooted plant than the white clover, like a red clover in there, then we also can improve that summer production a lot and get the nitrogen furnished for us," says Lacefield.

Annual clovers are usually seeded into warm-season grasses in the fall. Perennials are planted in late winter or early spring, although some white clovers can also be sown in the fall.

Universities around the country test all of the clovers that are commercially available, and publish their data. Lacefield says it’s important to do your homework and select the right variety for your pasture.

"We can spend all the money on fertility, and timing, and seeding, but if we make a mistake on the variety that we use, it can be a very costly mistake for us. And I don’t think that’s the time we need to just go into a store and say ‘what’s the cheapest thing you’ve got’, says Lacefield. "Often times we pay a little bit more to get higher yielding, more pest-resistance, longer-lived varieties. So I’m willing to spend a little more money if it’ll make me more money over the life of that stand."

Grazing animals find clover to be quite appetizing, which improves their performance.  

Learn more about the benefits of clover in your pasture

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