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Stockpiling Encourages Pasture Legumes

By   /  August 21, 2017  /  1 Comment

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Stockpiling pastures for winter grazing is a great way to allow legumes to naturally reseed in your pastures. Most of the commonly used legumes such as red, alsike, or strawberry clover and birdsfoot trefoil will produce enough seed for stand rejuvenation with 60-75 days of recovery time. Some native legumes will take longer.

Most of the strips that are grazed earlier in winter will have seed concentrated in the manure. Later in the winter some of the seed will naturally shatter out to reach the ground while other seed will pass through the rumen & be deposited in the dung piles.

Strip grazing with daily moves will give nice manure distribution and result in some seed shatter and incorporation through trampling. We try to let about 1/3rd of our pasture acres have an extended recovery period each year to maintain strong legume stands.

Pastures with declining clover stands can be rejuvenated with stockpiling forage through late summer and early autumn. Below is irrigated Idaho pasture in late October with limited clover density.

gerrish-stockpiled-pasture

Here’s a little better clover which is being allowed to naturally reseed. We like to see 30-50% of our total forage production coming from our legume components each year. This pasture has red, white, and alsike clover as well as some alfalfa and naturally occurring black medic.

gerrish-clover

Here you can see our clover seedlings emerging in a manure pile in the spring following stockpile grazing.

reseeded-clover-coming-up-through-manure

This is a mid-May stand of clover seedlings following the first grazing in the spring following fall grazing on stockpiled pasture.

gerrish-mid-may-clover

Below is the same pasture as previous picture one month later. The ground is literally covered with new clover plants.

gerrish-lovely-clover

This is the typical result when we work with nature rather than against nature. Pasture doesn’t get much better than this!

When this post originally appeared in October of 2016, Rob Havard of the UK wrote in with this question:

Jim – Do you find with that much clover in the sward that you lose the clover leaves with the frosts? Do you keep some more grass dominated swards for later winter grazing? We have wet winters with cold spells here.

Here’s Jim’s Answer:

What I have found over the years is that 50% grass is enough to carry good stockpile protection deep in the winter. This is especially true with taller growing grasses like tall fescue and meadow bromegrass. The clover tends to be below the grass canopy.

Alsike clover, red clover, and birdsfoot trefoil all have better leaf retention than does alfalfa. Alfalfa is the legume that really lets you down in a stockpile situation.

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About the author

Jim Gerrish is the author of “Management-Intensive Grazing: The Grassroots of Grass Farming” and “Kick the Hay Habit: A Practical Guide to Year-around Grazing” and is a popular speaker at conferences around the world. His company, American GrazingLands Services LLC is dedicated to improving the health and sustainable productivity of grazing lands around the world through the use of Management-intensive Grazing practices. They work with small farms, large ranches, government agencies and NGO’s to promote economically and environmentally sustainable grazing operations and believe healthy farms and ranches are the basis of healthy communities and healthy consumers. Visit their website to find out more about their consulting services and grazing management tools, including electric fencing, stock water systems, forage seed, and other management tools.

1 Comment

  1. Richard Moyer says:

    Jim,
    3 questions:
    Are there minerals or other fertilizer requirements that favor clover seedling survival and thriving?
    Is it possible, with good management, to have perpetual clover in a pasture once established? Or do the methods you describe above work some years better than others, requiring spreading of purchased seed in off years?
    Are there ways in the fescue belt to encourage white clover in with grasses, to spread through stolons and increase in stand density. Do some of these conflict with other clovers or legumes, or tons of overall, quality feed avail per acre?

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