Adding Legumes to Pastures

Adding Legumes to Pastures

October 23, 2009

Adding legumes to hay meadows and cool-season pastures is the best way to increase forage quality and animal performance from these forages. Legumes add protein and are readily consumer and digested by animals. Legumes also make their own nitrogen, which means fertilizer costs may decrease.

The biggest challenge to establishing legumes in grass sod is that the new, slow-growing seedlings may not compete well with grasses. Anything you can do to reduce this competition and slow grass growth will help legumes become established.

One of the best ways to slow spring grass growth is to graze the pasture hard this fall. Heavy grazing now, prior to sodseeding next spring, will weaken the grass and reduce its spring growth, plus remove much old dead thatch. This will give new legume seedlings a better chance to get started.

Fall is also a good time to collect soil samples from these pastures and add any fertilizer that may be needed for the changes you’ll be making. Legumes often need extra phosphorus and sometimes lime to improve soil pH.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist