Supplementing Pastures with Legumes Offers Double Benefit

Supplementing Pastures with Legumes Offers Double Benefit

February 11, 2009

Reducing pasture expenses can help your bottom line, but it shouldn't be at the expense of pasture quality. This spring, consider investing in legumes to reap a longer term benefit.

Legumes can reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer application and help cut costs. In five years of grazing research in eastern Nebraska, brome/legume pastures produced almost four-tenths of a pound higher average daily gain on yearlings than did straight brome pastures fertilized with 50 lb of nitrogen. That may not sound like much, but it can add up to an extra fifty-one pounds of beef per acre over the whole season. The increased value of heavier yearlings plus reduced fertilizer expenses resulted in more than an extra $50 per acre profit. Similar research conducted with warm-season grasses had nearly the same results.

Add Legumes in February and March

If you're interested in adding legumes to your pasture to reduce costs and increase production, February and March are good months to start.

Red clover is the easiest legume to establish because seed can be broadcast on pastures even if they are covered with several inches of snow. As snow melts and temperatures fluctuate in early spring, the seeds will get worked into the soil, germinate, and start to grow. With a little attention to controlling competition from the existing grass, new red clover plants can start increasing pasture production by summer.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist