Clovers are a wonderful addition to our pastures. Research has shown that a tall fescue/clover mixture can produce the same yield as tall fescue fertilized with 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre. They also have been shown to increase yields, improve animal performance, and provide more summer production.
Specifically, clovers contain more nutrients, are more digestible, and more palatable than grasses so they in turn increase the amount and quality of forage the animal consumes. Some studies have shown clovers improve animal gains and conception rates. Clovers added to endophyte-infected tall fescue have been shown to reduce the negative effect the endophyte has on animal performance, resulting in higher weaning weights, milk production, and conception rates.
The most popular legumes to use in our Tennessee pastures are white clover, red clover, and annual lespedeza. White clover is the most tolerant of grazing. Red clover provides greater forage yields and will be productive later into the summer than white clover. Annual lespedeza will provide more production during mid to late summer, especially on droughty hillsides.
The steps to planting clover into a fescue pasture are:
1. Fertilize according to soil test. Establishment and yield of clovers will be enhanced if the proper pH and nutrient levels are provided.
2. Do not add nitrogen. Nitrogen will not kill clovers, but it stimulates grass growth, and increases the potential of the clover being shaded out by the grass.
3. Seed 2 lb ladino white clover and 4 lb red clover per acre. 8 lb of annual lespedeza in addition to clovers can be seeded as well to gain more production mid to late summer. Use pre-inoculated seed, or inoculate the seed yourself.
4. Broadcast the seed between February 15th and March 1st. Clover seed is very small, and needs to be planted less than ¼ inch deep. Using no-till drills to plant clover seed in February and March can make it difficult to control seeding depth. The drills are heavy and the ground is soft. For this reason, it is often better to broadcast the seed on top of the ground.
5. Give the roots time to develop and don’t graze until the pasture is 8 inches tall.
6. Herbicide cautions: Many broadleaf herbicides contain residuals that will cause clover seeding to fail. For example, you must wait 4 weeks after a 2,4-D application to seed in clovers. If you applied DuraCor, you must wait one year from the application date to seed clovers. If you’ve applied GrazonNext or Chapparel anytime after June 2020, you will have to wait until Fall 2021 or Winter 2022 to seed in clovers. Be sure to check your herbicide label before planting clovers or other legumes.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss renovating your pastures, please contact Megan Harris at 931-722-3229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org
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•Feeder Calf Show / Building Better Beef Virtual Filed Day will be February 15th at United Producers (previously TLP) in Fayetteville. 4-H participants can show off their feeder calves–straight off the farm! NO grooming, NO halters. Heifers and Steers are shown in a pen while students participate in the virtual education sessions. No calves to show? No problem! You can still participate in the Field Day! Hop on at 10:15am and hear from some WONDERFUL presenters. Deadline to register is Feb 10th. Contact Megan Harris at email@example.com or 931-722-3229 for details.