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4 Surprising Parts of a Ruminant Digestive System

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Humans may make do with one stomach, but not everyone takes the same approach to digestion. Consider this: The ruminant digestive system features a stomach with four compartments. What exactly is a ruminant? How does their digestive system work? What can you do to protect the health of a ruminant’s digestive system?

Identifying Ruminants

As Mississippi State University Extension explains, a ruminant is a cud-chewing hoofed mammal with a unique digestive system that includes a stomach with four parts.

This complex system lets it generate energy more efficiently from the consumption of fibrous plants when compared to herbivores with monogastric digestive systems. In other words, it gives these animals a very real edge by allowing them to thrive on foods that other animals would find lacking. Cattle, sheep, goats, deer, elk, giraffes, bison, and antelope are all ruminants.

different types of ruminants

Breaking Down the Ruminant’s Digestive System

Understanding the basics of how a ruminant’s digestive system works can help you keep the animals in your care healthy and productive. The University of Minnesota Extension offers plenty of useful information about the ins and outs of the ruminant digestive system .

The Mouth

While the star of the ruminant’s digestive system is the four-part stomach, the process actually gets its start in the mouth. Chewing stimulates saliva production, and a ruminant’s saliva plays a key role in the digestive process. For starters, it contains enzymes that help to break down fats and starches.

In addition, saliva serves as a buffer in parts of the stomach. The saliva mixes with the plant matter and makes its way down the esophagus when the animal swallows.

The Esophagus

Muscle contractions move food through a ruminant’s esophagus, and bidirectionality is the feature of interest here. The muscles of the esophagus can move food either down from the mouth or up the same channel from the stomach.

The Stomach

If the ruminant digestive system has a distinguishing feature, it’s clearly the stomach. As Purdue University explains this complex organ has four parts:

Diagram of Ruminant Digestive System
By Pearson Scott Foresman – Archives of Pearson Scott Foresman, donated to the Wikimedia FoundationThis file has been extracted from another file: PSF A-10005.png, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3541895

The rumen

The first part of the stomach, the rumen is also the largest compartment. It can store up to 50 gallons of material. However, it’s not just about storage. The rumen is designed to hold onto hard-to-digest foods like the nitrogen in grass and break them down via fermentation and high concentrations of bacteria often dubbed “rumen bugs.” If roughage is proving especially difficult, the rumen extends its digestion time by encouraging further mechanical breakdown. Using the bidirectionality of the esophagus, already swallowed food, or cud, is sent back to the mouth to be re-chewed for a while. Then, it’s re-swallowed and redigested. Have you ever wondered why ruminants belch? It’s to clear the gas produced by the fermentation that is part of their digestion.

The reticulum

Often called the honeycomb because of its appearance, these bands of muscle guard against the intrusion of any large particles that have slipped past the rumen that need to be broken down more before they go deeper into the stomach. If it discovers them, it forces them back up so that they can be chewed again. Unfortunately, cows and other ruminants aren’t always picky eaters. What happens when they ingest hardware like nails or baling wire? It tends to end up in the reticulum. In some cases, surgery may be required to save the animal. Otherwise, sharp hardware could pierce the stomach.

The omasum

The third section of the stomach is comprised of folds of muscles called plies. The multitude of layers increases the surface area, which gives the omasum more opportunities to absorb nutrients as it squeezes waters from feed particles and breaks them down into smaller and smaller particles.

The abomasum

Known as the true stomach because it’s most like a monogastric animal’s stomach, the abomasum is where acids and digestive juices mingle with the food particles. From here, food moves to the small intestine.

The Small Intestine

The small intestine isn’t exactly small. It measures about twenty times the length of the animal and is made up of three parts: the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. Most of the actual nutrient absorption takes place here. Nutrients are collected within the small intestine by the finger-like villi and released into the blood and lymphatic systems.

The Cecum

The cecum is a pouch that sits between the small and large intestines. Its purpose is a mystery, but it helps to break down any fiber that remains undigested.

The Large Intestine

The large intestine absorbs water. Microbes that live here also digest some feed. Then, the organ eliminates any undigested food as waste.

Keeping The Ruminant’s Digestive System Healthy

Keeping a complex system functioning smoothly can be tricky. Pro Earth Animal Health offers a quick overview of some common digestive problems:

  • Acidosis – A metabolic disease that can be triggered by stress, illness, and other factors, acidosis causes shifts in the pH of the rumen that prompt the animal to decrease its food and water intake. If action isn’t taken to halt the disease process, the good bacteria in the rumen die off, toxins are released, and the animal’s immune system will continue to weaken. Acidosis can be fatal if the animal isn’t coaxed into eating and drinking.
  • Rumen impaction – Without enough hydration, indigestible materials can pile up in the rumen. Handlers need to ensure that animals have access to clean water and are drinking sufficient amounts
  • Hemorrhagic bowel syndrome – There’s no clear cause of HBS, but it tends to be the result of a blood clot or blockage in the small intestine. Taking steps to keep the rumen healthy seems to be the best way to prevent the issue.

Digestive health is an important part of an animal’s overall health. Understanding how the system works can help you make smart decisions about feed and care, including extending your growing season.

In addition, catching signs of digestive distress early makes finding an effective solution easier and more affordable. Be on the lookout for animals that are refusing to eat or drink, suffering from weight loss, lethargy or diarrhea, or are behaving unusually.

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How To Suppress Weeds With Cover Crops In A Pasture

Weeds are a reality of the natural world and part of every single pasture. No matter how well-groomed or managed grazing may be, weeds will always be present to some extent.

An efficient pasture, one with the welfare and nutritional needs of livestock in mind, has weed suppression taken into account.

Pasture management is important because it represents a portion of the animals’ diet. Remember, feeding costs account for well over 60-70% of total operating costs any given year. Poor forages can result in a host of issues, from inadequate nutrition to health issues to overall inefficiency and poor performance. 

livestock feed costs

The types of forages that are grown and managed is a key to pasture-based nutrition. When weed suppression isn’t practiced, even a strategically seeded pasture can be easily overtaken. This will undo all that quality control and, depending on the weed types, reduces tonnage of available and palatable forage. When quality feed is reduced, it can lead animals to consume less nutritious forages, which can have an adverse effect on daily live weight gains.

Fortunately, there are many different ways to tackle this issue, one of which is using cover crops for weed suppression. Other natural means, including intensive grazing, rotations and even co-species grazing can all help make for a healthier and less weedy pasture.

What’s In A Weed?

Controlling weeds in a pasture begins with identifying what you want and what you don’t. According to Merriam-Webster, a weed can be defined as “a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth.” This broad definition essentially means a weed is any undesired plant. For farmers, this especially includes those that are prolific or toxic in nature.

As with desirable forages, weeds come in a variety of categories and lifecycles including winter annuals, summer annuals, perennials and biennials.

Winter and summer annuals describe plants that complete their entire lifecycles in a single growing season. Dormant seeds sown the year prior are how these types proliferate. Biennials are similar but take two full years to complete their lifecycles.

Perennial plants are those that live for many seasons, with their root systems continuing to flower each year. These are the most difficult to control as they can spread by both roots and seeds, making it easy for them to evade removal. 

Because weeds fall into all of these categories, identification is crucial for the best mode of eradication. Understanding these different plant types and their lifecycles can help establish effective pasture management tactics to accommodate for their growing season and lifecycle.

The best way to identify weeds is to be familiar with your particular region in a specific time of the year. Local university extension services are a great resource for this. You can also use your region to help establish your forage stand to withstand different seasons and avoid winterkill with seeding selection and tactics.

The North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension recommends that producers be familiar with the terminology used to describe the identifying features of certain leaves. Charts with photos and lifecycle information can also be helpful to have on hand when doing a pasture walk.

parts of a grass plant

Scouting for pasture quality and weeds takes time and effort, but it is well worthwhile. The financial cost of weeds will vary greatly on factors such as region and management strategy – but it’s significant and real. According to a 2018 study from Cambridge University, the cost of noxious weed management and forage losses on privately-owned rangeland was $7,243 annually on an average grazing unit of 5,055 acres. Even these estimates are believed to be on the low end as this study only factored direct costs. Other studies have found costs to be even higher than this accounting for multiple other factors.

When you consider cost, the necessity of staying on top of weed spread becomes all the more important. In the case of Palmer amaranth, an invasive type of pigweed, each plant can produce over 100,000 seeds per plant (some studies have found this to be closer to 250,000). Though it is an annual variety, its rapid growth rate and prolific nature make it impossible to control without proper maintenance.

Remember The Livestock

Proper pasture management always keeps the nutritional needs and demands of the animals in mind. This is partly why weed suppression is so crucial – excessive weed growth inevitably pushes out the nutrient-dense forages you are trying to provide.

A simple way to establish a nutritious pasture is to focus on a good stand of different legumes. Legumes are a very high-quality feed for livestock, being good sources of things like energy and protein. In fact, Michigan State University recommends legumes make up anywhere from 40 to 60% of a pasture.

suppress weeds with cover crops

Clover is one common legume that is especially nutrient-dense and grows well in a wide variety of climates and pasture types. It’s also very palatable to animals – making overgrazing easy. To prevent them from being overtaken by grasses and weeds,  a strong planting and management strategy is crucial.

As with many legumes, clover poses a risk for frothy bloat when overconsumed. This happens because these plants create a foamy layer in the rumen once they begin the digestion process, too much of this build up will trap the rumen gases and is often fatal without treatment. Berseem or Egyptian clover is one variety that doesn’t have this effect and can be grazed quite safely. Balansa clover is a low-bloating type that, while it can cause the issue, it very rarely ever does.

Another way to avoid issues is to ensure pastures are seeded with adequate “good” grazing grasses to balance out excessive legumes.

Another danger of weeds are the poisonous types that can crop up and proliferate. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, plant poisonings are a cause of major economic loss in the livestock industry. Approximately three to five percent of livestock are affected by consuming poisonous plants on western rangelands each year.

What types of poisonous weeds to look out for depends heavily on the specific region, but producers should familiarize themselves with some of the most common types. These include hemlocks, larkspurs, nightshade, milkweed and horsenettle.

common poisonous weeds found in a pasture

While it is impossible to completely eliminate all poisonous plants, the odds can be reduced with good pasture management.

Methods Of Management

There are many ways that weeds can be controlled to fit just about any management style. The broad categories these fall into are preventative, cultural, biological, mechanical and chemical control, according to Oregon State University. One or more of these tactics can be used at a time.

chemical weed control

Chemical control is what it sounds like, it’s using a type of herbicide to control or stop the growth of weed species. This should be done after scouting pastures to ensure they are applied at the proper times. Improper timing could be ineffective at best and kill newly seeded desirable forages at worst.

mechanical weed control

When equipment is used to control weeds, often with a seasonal mowing, it falls under mechanical control. This can be very effective when used with other management tools. For example, mowing pastures at the end of each season can amplify the effectiveness of cover crops by preventing weeds from ever going to seed in the first place.

preventative weed control

Preventative weed control means good practices to help avoid the transfer and establishment of weed seeds. This could be as simple as cleaning equipment, and being mindful to feed weed-free forages to your animals. 

cultural weed control

Culture and biological control are similar methods that work well with one another. Weed suppression with cultural control is using pasture maintenance techniques that discourage proliferation. This encompasses many good practices such as forage rotation, not overgrazing and using competitive species to “push out” weeds and keep the soil fertile.

biological weed control

When biological control is used, it means that natural “enemies” of weeds are put in place. This could be co-species grazing such as using small ruminants to eat weeds that are unpalatable to cattle promoting younger, more desirable forages to grow. This could even involve using certain insects that target certain weed species as well.

Cover crop weed suppression falls into both of these categories and can be extremely effective.

Suppress Weeds With Cover Crops

According to the USDA, cover crops have many functions and benefits – for pasture as well as row crops.

By definition, they are “…grasses, legumes, and other forbs that are planted for erosion control, improving soil structure, moisture, and nutrient content, increasing beneficial soil biota, suppressing weeds, providing habitat for beneficial predatory insects, facilitating crop pollinators, providing wildlife habitat, and as forage for farm animals.” 

When pasture lands are left unattended after the grazing season, weeds are likely to crop up in the springtime. Planting a cover crop in this interim can not only keep weeds at bay, but they can also add nutritional value.

One evaluation from Penn State found that cereal rye and oats, both excellent grass for grazing, had consistently favorable weed suppression rates. Even if these were seeded at just a fifth of their monoculture rates, their aggressive fall growth sufficiently slowed weed growth.

Clover, a highly nutritious legume, happens to be another excellent cover crop. One 2007 study published in the European Journal of Agronomy found the following:

“Clover species with superior weed suppression, like Persian clover, red clover, alsike clover, berseem clover and crimson clover also gave the strongest negative effect on dry matter accumulation of leek (reductions between 70% and 90%).”

Several other species of forbs, legumes and grasses also work as great cover crops. Some will even continue suppressing weeds even after they die off by releasing certain substances (allelochemicals, or natural herbicides), promoting weed-pathogenic fungi and even making nitrogen less available to them. 

To determine the best fit for your pasture and grazing needs, consult with your agronomist, university extension service and fellow grazers for recommendations. 

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Best Forage For Cattle: Quality Matters For Cows And The Soil

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Forage is a cornerstone of both beef and dairy production. It’s the most basic and essential fuel for the cow’s growth, health and production. As such, we understand that quality is no small matter when choosing the best forage for cattle.

best forage for cattle

With feed costs representing anywhere from 60 to 70% of total production inputs according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, better or worse quality could quite literally make or break the business.

While there are many different ways forage can be harvested, stored and fed, its production ultimately begins in the same place – the soil. And when farmed and managed responsibly, forages are not only a great feed for livestock, but they will also provide long-term health and fertility to the soil.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 95% of all our food comes directly from the soil. This includes the fruits and vegetables we eat as well as what is consumed by livestock to create end products.

soil health importance

Cattle are in a unique position because by growing their forages – especially in the case of pastures and hayfields – the soil can be enhanced.

Plants are a lot like solar panels – they take in natural energy from the sun and convert it into nutrients that can be used as a fuel or energy source for the animals consuming it. When a cow eats a mouthful of grass or legumes, her rumen microbes will feed on it creating the fuel that builds muscle, supports growth, and allows for reproduction, milk production and much more.

All forages are very different regarding what nutrients they provide for animals. Not only is feeding suboptimal quality inefficient and not cost-effective, it’s also environmentally unsustainable. Remember, poor forages will use more resources in the growing and feeding compared to high-quality ones. Not to mention the challenges in keeping the ruminant’s digestive system healthy.

What’s In Forage, Anyway?

Deciding on the most appropriate type and variety of forage to feed cattle will depend greatly on region, seasonality and stage in production or lifecycle. Fortunately, there are many ways these can be mixed and matched to provide the most optimal diet for your animals.

The two broad categories forages are broken into are cool season and warm season. These are directly correlated to the time of year they are most prolific.

cool season grasses vs warm season grasses

Cool season varieties are especially important as they play integral roles in fall and winter feeding. While they can be more difficult to maintain and expensive to upkeep, these cool-season types can help cut down on costly winter feedstuffs.

One of the benefits to cold season varieties is that they can be overseeded on top of warm season types to allow for an earlier spring and/or longer summer grazing season.

While there are many nutritious grasses, cool season legumes are especially worth noting. Legumes plants belong to the Fabaceae family. Not only are many of them nutrient-dense, but they also have a special symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing bacteria thanks to structures in their roots called nodules. This makes them an integral part of soil health and crop rotation programs.

nitrogen nodules

Some of the most well-known legumes in the cattle world are alfalfa and clover. These grow very well with many other grasses. And, because many legume varieties are quite dense, growing enough of them can help cut down on unwanted weeds while boosting soil integrity.

Discover how to suppress weeds with cover crops in your pasture.

What’s The Most Nutritious Grass For Cattle?

Obtaining the proper nutrition from forages is a pivotal component, but its efficiency and profitability also cannot be overlooked. Harvested and stored options including hay and silage can certainly provide all the nutrition as a pasture can, but there is a serious cost associated with that compared to grazing where animals can “self-harvest.”

There are many variables and factors to this economic outlook, but the difference is significant according to a white paper by Kenny Burdine, an extension economist for the University of Kentucky.

When hay is stored and fed, there is always a loss associated with wastage or damage. Burdine calculated the difference at a 15%, 25% and 35% loss when feeding hay to cattle, each equivalent to the quality of the tonnage.

By his calculations, hay fed at a 15% loss worth $80 a ton cost $1.41 per ton with the assumption each animal consumed 30 lbs. per day. Contrast that to a pasture with a two acres per head stocking density – even with a $50 an acre maintenance cost per year, the cost of feeding would only be $0.42 per day.

Now, when discussing forage value and economics, one must also discuss how well it can be managed and produced in a specific region. Many specific varieties are quite well adapted to certain regions making it a good idea to stick to those that are tried and true. Likewise, growth distribution – meaning how a variety will proliferate after its establishment – need to be considered and how it relates to seasonality.

Other points relevant to the bottom line are quality, yield and persistence as explained by Steve Orloff and Dan Putnam of the University of California-Davis.

Potential use is also something producers should be aware of. For example, some pasture mixes are hardy enough to withstand hoof traffic and prolific enough to be converted to a hayfield and harvested. Other mixes (like alfalfa) are insufficient at withstanding grazing pressure and need to be harvested before feeding.

Quality factors And Detractors

There are a lot of factors at play that can help or hinder forage growth, production and quality. But there is one key overarching player to always be aware of – soil health.

You could say that the health and wealth of any crop, ultimately, begins quite literally at the roots and the soil surrounding them. This is why maintaining and preserving the soil in tandem with forage production is critical.

Soil is quite delicate. The earth only has about 60 years-worth of viable topsoil, according to Maria-Helena Semedo of the UN’s FAO, to support ongoing agricultural efforts without proper care and preservation.

Globally, soils are being degraded far faster than they can be replaced. A 2006 study from Cornell University published in the Journal of the Environment, Development and Sustainability found that, specifically, soils in the United States are degrading at a rate 10 times faster than they are being replaced. In China and India, that rate is about 30 to 40 times faster.

When we consider that, according to the Eniscuola School of Energy and Environment, it takes 200 to 400 years for a single centimeter of topsoil to be formed in most climates, the reality becomes very serious.

Research, such as work done at the University of California-Davis, has found that in addition to harming fertility, poor soil leaves plants more vulnerable to disease and pests while having an overall lower yield.

Using Legumes For Soil Health

Part of preserving soil is understanding it – what makes it healthy or unhealthy? Many forage growers and cattle producers may not know the specific metrics they are looking for.

phosphorus levels in soil

Only about 10% of all land used to grow forage is soil tested, according to the University of Kentucky. Of that, 45% is low in the essential nutrient phosphorous and 35% is low in the essential nutrient potassium.

And, interestingly, legumes – who are can help recycle nutrients according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service – are only grown in about one-third of the areas they could potentially be grown in.

Additionally, legumes can also enhance soil organic matter, improve soil structure and lower soil pH – much of this is due to the Rhizobia bacteria that live in the nodules of their roots. These bacteria are what allow them to fix their own nitrogen.

Having a significantly different background compared to other forage types, planting legumes can also enhance overall biological diversity which, in turn, can help break harmful pest cycles including diseases, weeds and insects in a crop rotation.

Know Your Resources

The first step to incorporating legumes is to do an annual soil check. After all, planting, harvesting and forage equipment is typically checked at least once a year – soil should be treated no differently! Soil requires management much like anything else in farming. And, of course, you can’t manage what isn’t measured.

An agronomist can help make some recommendations based on specific soil test results, and help accommodate a forage plan to a specific farm. Like so many other things in our agriculture system, one of the best ways to learn is from other farmers who share their own experiences in a similar region and/or livestock management system.

There are also lots of academic resources available to help develop a healthy forage plan. These include your local extension service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, the National Hay Association and the National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance.

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Renovating Pastures with Clovers

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Originally Published: ​3/4/18 10:05 a.m.
Updated: 2/24/21 10:44 a.m.

Should you over seed pastures or hayfields with clovers during the winter and early spring months to increase animal performance?

Research across the country strongly suggests renovating pastures does increase animal performance. These grazing studies from across the United States have shown an increase in animal performance when they have been grazed on pastures with ryegrass with clover added to it.

In a 2016 Mississippi State University cattle study, daily live weight gains were recorded on cattle grazing a mixture of Frosty berseem clover and Lonestar annual ryegrass. Frosty extended the grazing period and lowered nitrogen costs by 14%! Cattle grazing the ryegrass + berseem mix gained 0.87 lbs/day more than the straight ryegrass with commercial fertilizer. In the subsequent trial the grass following the Frosty plots showed an increase in growth and quality.

renovating pastures
Lonestar Fixation Pasture Mix. It’s large

Four Ways Clovers Benefit Pastures And Hay Fields

Increase Yield

yield increase

It’s cheap, quick and low risk, helps suppress weeds, and prevents soil erosion.Research has shown that tall fescue and orchardgrass over seeded with clovers to renovate pastures, will produce more forage than a pure tall fescue or orchardgrass pasture fertilized with 60 pounds of nitrogen per acre.

Improve Animal Performance

Beef Grazing on a Pasture

Research has shown that clovers improve animal gains and conception rates. High quality feed is important for a calf to gain well and for a cow to rebreed after calving. Clovers are more digestible and contain more nutrients than grasses. Their presence in a pasture improves the palatability of the forage, which will increase the amount and quality of the forage the animal consumes.

Nitrogen Fixation

nitrogen nodules

Nitrogen fixation is another characteristic that makes legumes a desirable component of a pasture or hayfield. Not only is the nitrogen available to the legume, but the surrounding grass plants can use this nitrogen when the annual clovers die out. Annual legumes such as Frosty berseemFixation balansa, and Kentucky Pride crimson clover can produce approximately 150 to 200 pounds of nitrogen per acre each year. If nitrogen costs 25 cents per pound, this would be a savings of $37.50 to $50.00 per acre each year.

Extend Grazing Season

Most of the growth from cool-season grasses such as tall fescue and orchardgrass occurs during the spring and fall. During the summer, high temperatures and drought cause these grasses to slow or stop producing.

Legumes such as white clover and annual clovers (AberLasting, FrostyFixation, and Kentucky Pride) can extend the grazing season and provide high quality pasture that is missing during the summer forage slump in tall fescue or orchardgrass pastures.

Clover is a valuable addition to any pasture or hay mix. Being in the legume family, they supply lots of high quality protein, relative feed value, and other nutrients and they’re very palatable, too.

Not All Clovers Are Created Equal

White, red, berseem, balansa and crimson clovers are safe additions to any pasture or hayfield, but the closely related alsike clover (pictured below) has been connected to health problems in livestock.

By Ivar Leidus – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27022478

One problem linked to alsike clover is photosensitization. Livestock that ingest alsike clover in the summer months and are exposed to sunlight, can develop red, blistered muzzles and sun burned skin, especially if they have white markings with pink skin underneath their fur.

Early symptoms may include drooling and reluctance to eat, and swelling of the affected animal’s tongue or muzzle. Alsike poisoning can affect cattle, swine, and sheep, but is particularly brutal for horses.

How To Overseed Your Pasture?

Over seeding is simple, effective and a low-cost way to improve old pastures without tilling and re-seeding. It’s cheap, quick and low risk, helps suppress weeds, and prevents soil erosion.

To get the best results you can follow our guidelines below.

Survey The Damage

Many fields had weaker than normal forage stands going into the winter. This left many of us wondering how the stands will respond when we get a couple of spring rains that have the potential to turn our green pastures into a muddy mess when the livestock start grazing it.

Part of the explanation for the mess is that the root system of our forages grows in proportion to the top growth. Close frequent grazing, which limits the available top growth, will also effects the growth of the root systems. With limited root growth, it does not take much livestock traffic to really tear up a field. So what can we do to help thicken up our forage stands that have been weakened by this harsh weather?

First estimate the forage stand to determine what restoration options you will need to do. This can be done by using a one foot square to quantify stand density. Take 10 random one-foot square samples per hayfield or pasture to provide an estimate of the average stand condition. Estimate the amount of bare ground in each square. When you have completed taking these plot counts over the field you probably came away with a feel for whether the field needs help from partial renovation or not.  If there is more than 10% bare ground you need to consider some sort of renovation.

Get The Timing Right

The seed is dependent on soil moisture to help it germinate and establish. Good seed-to-soil contact is also vital for establishing a strong seedling stand. There are several approaches to inter planting into an old pasture. A simple but effective way is to frost seed it, by broadcasting the seed over the ground when it is frozen. As the soil thaws and freezes, the seed will be worked into the ground.

Frost seeding a pasture

It can also be planted into open pastures when soil temperatures start to get above 52°F. If the pasture sod is dense, it may need to be disked or harrowed to open areas for the seeds to contact the soil to establish.

Seed can also be planted at any point through the summer if there is enough soil moisture.

Aggressive growing pastures should not be seeded during May and June when excessive grass growth will smother any new seedlings.

How To Plant

Seed may be broadcast or drilled into recently grazed or cut pasture. A spinner spreader is good for applying low rates and will distribute clover seed up to 30 feet.

Spinner spreader is good for applying low rates of seed up to 30 feet

Seed broadcasted into open pastures may have to be worked into the soil with either a harrow. This is good for opening thicker sod pastures. On the other hand, a grass drill can be used and will set the seed right into the soil.

What’s The Best Clover For Cattle Pastures?

The best results come from vigorous strains of tetraploid ryegrass (Albion and Oro Verde). They are quick to establish and ideal for grazing pasturelands. We put our #1 selling Perennial Ryegrass to the test on our Iowa Research Farm. Read Utilizing Perennial Ryegrass For Cattle Pastures.

White and red clovers (Domino, Ladino, AberLastingDynamite) usually give good results when sown into warm, moist soils and especially where grazing management is practiced.

Annual Clovers (FrostyFixationKentucky Pride) can be planted to improve feed quality during the summer slump and can be sown in during the spring.

Do not allow the grass in the field to grow tall and get too mature. Not only will this result in poor quality pasture or hay, but will result in the shading of the legumes. If the pastures reach 8 to 10 inches tall, either graze them down to 3 to 4 inches or mow them for hay. This will prevent the spring flush of growth from shading the clovers. A good rotational grazing plan will help preserve the clovers.

Legumes should be a component of any pasture or hay field. They help to improve animal performance and reduce the need for nitrogen. Either one of these benefits alone is enough to make legumes profitable in your pasture. With both it makes them a necessary component of any pasture.

To help you decide on the best forage for your cattle, check out our helpful chart.

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Recovering from Winterkill

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Many of you are looking at hay fields or pastures and are seeing significant winterkill. The past few days my phone has been ringing off the hook from farmers and ranchers looking for cost effective ideas to over come this latest hurdle that mother nature has thrown at us.

Alfalfa Options–

#1 Rotate Fields – The first thing that you may consider if you have alfalfa and grazing pasture is to plant a permanent pasture where the alfalfa was with the idea of planting alfalfa later where your older pasture field is now. This would be a good option as it allows you to avoid the auto-toxicity in alfalfa that prevents it from being seeded back immediately to alfalfa. Improved orchardgrass varieties such as Crown Royale and Quickdraw or a Tall Fescue like Rustler, can be the basis for a highly productive, new pasture that can last for years.If a short-term pasture is more your speed, consider utilizing a good tetraploid perennial ryegrass like Oro Verde or Albion. The further north you are, the later maturity the grasses should be in your mix to match up the plant’s vegetative growth stage with your climate.

#2 Thicken up the Alfalfa Stand – If you have a weak stand yet need high quality hay like the type alfalfa can deliver, consider thickening it up with a multi-cut Berseem Clover, like our variety Frosty. Cheap berseem clovers from overseas are likely to be a single-cut variety and should be avoided. Berseem clover is similar in appearance and quality to alfalfa and will retain its green color in the bale.There have been anecdotal reports in the United States and studies conducted in the Middle East with Buffalo that suggest that Berseem Clover in the ration can improve Butterfat percentages.

You can also utilize Italian Ryegrass (biennial types), Tetraploid Intermediate Ryegrass, Festuloliums, Teff, or small grains to help fill in a field. The downside is that mixed hay brings a lower price to that of all legume hay.

If you irrigate your hayfield you will need to decrease the amount of water that you apply at a single time and speed up the frequency for optimum success. Remember that annual grasses and clovers have shorter root systems.

Raise Your Cutting Height

You will need to raise your cutting height to 3-4 inches as the ability to re-grow lies in the base of annual plants and not the roots like alfalfa. Assess your field prior to cutting to identify the lowest green leaf on the plants.If you fail to leave any green leaves you will not see any regrowth!

Base your cutting time on when the earliest component in your field is ready. For annual clovers, you will want to cut at or before the bud stage, before blooms are showing. For grasses or small grains cut at or before boot stage. If you wait until head emergence in grasses or grains or bloom in clovers, then you will see poor recovery as the plants will have shifted from vegetative to reproductive modes.

Proper Seeding Depth is Key

Get good seed to soil contact when seeding, taking care not to plant too deep. Your best option is always to drill the seed. Small seeded clovers and Teff should be sown at approximately ¼ inch deep. When sowing, stop the drill after having traveled only a few feet. If you don’t see some seed, then it is likely that you have your drill set to deep and you need to raise it a bit. If you need to broadcast, try to time it with a long period of wet weather and increase your seeding rate. If you can scuff the ground by lightly discing or with a harrow, your odds for success will improve. Make sure not to over-work it, you do not want a fluffy seed bed.You should be able to bounce a ball on the field, this will indicate a firm enough seed bed for planting.If the seed bed is too loose, then run across it with a roller to pack it down a bit.

In the Fall, you can work up your ground and plant back to alfalfa and the effect of auto-toxicity should be reduced or eliminated.

Pasture Options–

If your pasture is weak, then it may be time to work it up; however, sometimes you can easily renovate it. First step is to assess your stand (See “ Renovating Pastures with Clovers”). If you have a lot of unproductive grasses then it is probably time to start over. If there are a lot of broadleaf weeds, then you can apply a broadleaf herbicide and then drill some improved forage grasses into it to thicken the stand. Spring is an excellent time for seeding Orchardgrass or Tall Fescue. Medium-Late maturity Crown Royale Orchardgrass will provide a lot of flexibility for future use, being suitable for either grazing or hay applications.

Some brassicas are also very good for improving the productivity of the soil as they can produce forage throughout the summer. A couple of pounds per acre can go a long way when it comes to Brassicas so make sure not apply too much seed.

If you need more perennial clover in your pasture, consider utilizing AberLasting Clover. AberLasting is an amazing breakthrough in clover as it combines the establishment speed of a white clover with the resiliency of a Kura clover.Scientists at the Institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Sciences in Aberystwyth, Wales were able to successfully cross White Clover with Kura Clover. The resulting variety, AberLasting, features both rhizomes and stolons and as a result is much more hardy than white clover. Unlike Kura Clover, AberLasting will be productive from a forage standpoint the year of seeding.

AberLasting White x Kura Clover

Other Options- 

If nature has left you a blank slate and you need summer feed, there are options.

Frosty Berseem Clover can produce multiple cuttings over the summer.In trials at Penn State, Spring planted Frosty yielded over 4 tons/A. of hay. Unlike most clovers, Berseem is non-bloating and is safe to graze with minimal risk.

Small Grains (oats, triticale, barley) with Peas can provide 2.5 to 3.5 tons/A. in late June to mid-July. Consider using an improved pea, such as Survivor, to get the maximum productivity.This mix will deliver a highly productive forage that is especially well-suited for balage or silage.

Sorghum-Sudan, Pearl Millet, and Teff are warm-season annual grasses that can produce impressive amounts of forage. Make sure you wait to seed until all danger of frost has passed as these species are frost sensitive. These species will not overwinter and Sorghum-Sudan is not recommended for stock-pile grazing or harvesting if it has seen a frost or after it matures as there is danger of prussic acid poisoning.

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

Recovering from Winterkill.PDF

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The Best Clover For Deer: Fixation Balansa

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From grazing cattle to growing deer, an improved variety of balansa clover for deer is integral to Chris Herring’s Mississippi commodity farm and land management business.

From the time Chris Herring of Columbus, Miss., planted his field of balansa clover at the end of September to the last time we spoke in mid-May, the crop had been flooded 21 times.

The real kicker? It is still alive and thriving.

Improved varieties of cover crops have managed to make their mark as an integral part of Chris’ business enterprises due to their consistency and the ability to select for specific trait performance.

Managing Food Plots For Trophy Deer

As a land manager, his company, Southern Forest Timber is responsible for improving land and wildlife conditions for 20,000 acres in the southeast. On top of that, Chris also farms 200 acres of cotton and soybeans and manages 110 acres in a forage food plot rotation to develop deer and turkeys. The underlying business model off all three systems is simple: invest in inputs that will improve land conditions to make as much money as possible.

Using his food plot ground as a testing center for new applications, Chris decided to trial FIXatioN Balansa Clover for deer four years ago.

Bred specifically to fix significant amounts of nitrogen and to produce a large amount of biomass that is high in crude protein, Chris chose it as a solution to his winter dip in feed quality for the deer herd. According to Chris, a deer needs 15-18% crude protein in its diet – this variety averages 20-25% – just the ticket for growing the big boys.

When Do Deer Eat Cover?

Utilized within a forage soybean and corn rotation, crops are planted green into balansa clover to take advantage of the nitrogen it fixes as it starts to decompose. Drilling at the end of September and giving deer access to it in February, the clover has done more than provide a high-quality feedstuff to the deer till mid-May.

Benefits of Balansa Clover For Deer

The deep tap roots (Chris’ measured more than a foot long) held soil in place and improved soil moisture conditions in the farm’s heavy soils. The high amount of biomass also made a remarkable difference in weeds within the first year, particularly pigweed (Amaranthus sp.) that the farm routinely battles.

Most impressively has been the clover’s ‘wet feet’ that has kept it thriving in saturated conditions that historically drowned out other crops

With confidence in its performance, FIXatioN Balansa Clover has been integrated into all of Chris’ enterprises.

On his commodity soybean and cotton land, it is being used in mixtures to improve soil structure, organic matter and to successfully cut herbicide inputs. With some of his client’s land, it is also being used as a tool to improve wildlife ecosystems and most recently, to graze cattle.

Fundamental to the success of Chris’ business enterprises have been curiosity and an open mind to trying new things. Keeping that in practice, he is continually experimenting with new applications of the balansa clover. Recently, he achieved a 120bu/acre yield on a corn trial planted green into balansa and given zero fertilizer. This fall, he won’t be reseeding any balansa on food plots that were allowed to naturally playout for the last three years to see what type of natural reseed is achieved.

Investing Into Inputs

Once a grower of Dixie Crimson Clover, an industry standard variety, Chris had seen enough to realize the return on investment opportunities when using an improved variety. The consistency in performance and trait enhancement allowed him to reduce input costs and improve outputs while giving him the data to utilize FIXatioN in many different applications – something he wasn’t getting with Dixie. An industry standard variety for crimson clover, decades of uncontrolled varietal or production oversight has left Dixie with zero performance consistency. Varying traits such as winter survival rates, root depths, biomass production and maturity dates have made it a gamble for anyone that plants it.

For Chris, the data to make strategic management decisions and to understand how the crop was going to perform made the investment into the improved balansa variety worth it – and its performance paid for it.

We’ve asked Chris to tell us more about his food plots and what the best clover for deer are.

by Guest Blogger, Chris Herring, Southern Forest Timber

As a serious deer manager, I am always searching for the best nutritional forages to supplement my deer herd. I have made a proven and definite find for one of the best deer forages that I have ever used. It’s Fixation Balansa Clover.

best clover for deer

At my farm in Lowndes County, Mississippi, we manage our deer herd very intensely. My number one management tool is planting high quality forage. I started five years ago with a very aggressive food plot management plan. This plan would try to implement 12 months of high protein nutrition through food plot plantings. I have planted many species promoted for white-tail deer, cool season and warm season food plots were implemented. Soybeans, cowpeas, white clover, cereal grains, and brassicas were planted. I always had a low nutritional gap between the end of February through May, except for my white clover.

Fixation Balansa Clover was implemented into my nutritional plan in 2015, on recommendation by another white-tail deer guru, Bronson Strickland, from Mississippi State University. I contacted GO Seed and the rest is history.

I am looking for three main characteristics in my deer forages:

  1. Protein Levels
  2. Palatability
  3. Grazing Ability and Pressure

Fixation Balansa Clover has it all. My goal is to have the deer herd, especially the bucks, in the best physical shape coming out of the winter stress periods, especially the rut. Fixation Balansa Clover delivers the nutrition deer need and the plant really peeks at the optimum time.

In my opinion, the healthier the deer coming out of the winter produce the maximum potential in antler size and body weights.

For a printable PDF of an earlier version of this blog, click below.

Chris Herring- Fixation Balansa Clover.PDF

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Utilizing Perennial Ryegrass For Cattle Pastures

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One of the things that we like to investigate at our Richland, Iowa research farm is how our products perform. Being the leader in clovers and having the #1 selling Perennial Ryegrass in the area, Albion, we decided to see what kind of feed we could get from a two-way pasture mix.

I planted 2, 8’ x 10’ reps of each clover/grass mixture on August 8, 2017. The ground was dragged with a harrow and the seed was broadcast and raked in, then the seed bed was firmed up with a roller.

Seeding rates were as follows:

Last Fall was unusually dry and hot, but I caught a good rain (0.7”) on 8/14/17 that got the seeds sprouted before a gully washer (5.6”) on 9/18/17. Growing conditions were good until late October when it turned cold and the growing season ended. The plots were mowed a couple times before heading into winter. The winter of 2017/2018 was fairly normal with a stretch of cold weather in early January.

We had a couple weeks of subzero temperatures around the holidays with low temperatures ranging from -9*F to -19*F. Fortunately, we had 6” of powdery snow on the farm during this cold snap. Our “spring”, if you can call it that, was unusually cold keeping soil temperatures really low.

The first 3 weeks of April featured overnight low temperatures in the teens and 20’s before finally warming up in the last week of April. Greenup came fast and furious once we broke out of the deep freeze. Once our soil temperatures got up in the 45-50* range, the grass and clovers started piling on the biomass. Survival of the Albion, FIXatioN, Domino, Kentucky Pride and AberLasting was excellent! Most of the Frosty Berseem Clover however, as expected, did not make it thru the winter.

ryegrass for cattle pastures

Various clover varieties with Albion Tetraploid Perennial Ryegrass 

Albion Tetraploid Perennial Ryegrass w/FIXatioN Balansa Clover

As of May 21st, the grass is showing vigorous re-growth as are the clovers. Temperatures have been warm with highs in the 70’s and 80’s with good moisture. These plots will be given a few more weeks to re-grow and further cuttings will be taken throughout the summer. The perennial clovers (Domino and AberLasting) will keep doing their thing and the Annual Clovers (FIXatioN & Kentucky Pride) will be allowed to flower to assess re-seeding potential. Stay tuned for updates!

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

Utilizing Clovers to Improve Feed Quality of Pastures.PDF

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Frosty Berseem Clover: Everything you wanted to know about using it in a grass on grass crop rotation but were too afraid to ask.

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When it comes to trying something new on the farm it’s not uncommon for hay producers to stick with what has worked for them in the past. That can be understandable given the demand from the hay buyers to be consistent for quality hay, especially to the dairy producers. A new option for better hay is cold-tolerant Frosty berseem clover. Frosty has been shown to increase yields up to 20%, increase protein by 12%, RFV by 11% and profits by up to 25%.

One grower in South Idaho stepped outside his comfort zone and decide to give Frosty berseem clover a try. Justin Place of Place Farms in Homer, Idaho acted on an advertising card sent to him last year and planted Frosty berseem on 132 ac. to help break his grass on grass rotation cycle. Here’s what he had to say about his experience.

GO: Justin, please describe your farm to us.

Justin: “Our farm is in southeast Idaho. We’re in quite sandy ground, to kind of sandy to a loam type soil. We transitioned from a full conventional tillage program to a no-till program and were looking for a crop that we can rotate with barley and wheat that will break some disease cycles. You know, we’ve been very selective on where the potatoes have been, rotation-wise. We’re really in the very beginning stages of our whole no-till program. We were looking for something else we could put in that mix, that could go barley and small grains, and then have something that we could rotate that would be a no-till type product that could come back into with grain again without disturbing the soils. That’s what really enticed us into the clover side of things.”

GO: Where did you first hear about Frosty?

Justin: “You know, I must admit, the postcard fliers worked. That’s where I first heard about Frosty. We received a postcard in the mail. We had raised Berseem clover, it’s been many years ago. We put it in with an alfalfa crop, just as a nurse crop. We put it in, like five pounds with 15 pounds of our alfalfa to help establish the stand for the first year. But you know, we hadn’t gone back to it. When we saw the Frosty, we said, “Let’s try growing just straight Frosty Berseem.” The old variety that we had raised, any little frost, or any little inclination that it was going to get cold, you’d singe the old berseem down and it was done. That was kind of our holdback on clover before.”

GO: Did it meet your expectation for frost tolerance?

Justin: “It did, yeah. You know, we had a few nights that cooled off pretty good. I thought, “Man, we’re going to put this to the test.” I think we dropped it down to about 27, 26 degrees, and I said, “Man, I got a whole field of this out there.” With most of the plants in the four and five leave stages. I thought, “This is going to either really work or it’s going to smoke the whole field at once.” Then everything, kind of turned a little bit of a purple color, but just kept throwing leaves and kept coming. I was impressed with the frost tolerance in that regard. Even this fall, after, we took our last cutting off, it started to come back. Then we got into some real cold weather. It slowed way down, but it was still alive all the way up until it turned to a frozen block. But yeah, we were quite impressed with the way it handled the frost for what we were doing.”

GO: Did it work on breaking up your crop rotation from planting grass on grass?

Justin: ”It did. But we did have some harvesting issues with it. Frosty or whatever clover you have, there’s no cut delay. An alfalfa plant, you cut it and it doesn’t start throwing leaves again right away. It gives you just a little lag before it starts coming back from the big haircut. But the clover, on the other hand, you cut it and it starts growing leaves the next day again. We had a few challenges to dry it before we could bale it. Once we got it in a bale, it’s beautiful in the bale. It tests very, very well. But drying it was an issue for us. By third crop, we kind of had it figured out. To dry it, we had to lay the windrow as wide as we could to dry down. Then we’ll roll it together and bale. It doesn’t give you a very long window in our area to bale, because once the sun goes down, it will start transpiring and pulling moisture back up into the windrow. It would go from practically dry to a little bit dry to wet real fast. I think some of that’s the big leaf. Frosty’s got a big leaf on it. You need to manage for that a little bit different than we did with the alfalfa.”

GO: Is there anything that really surprised you about when you planted the Frosty?

Justin: “You know, I don’t know that it really did. It was a beautiful stand. All in all, we feel like it did a very good job. Where we clear-seeded it, we had a very good stand. It really yielded quite well. It did a great job for us.”

GO: Are there one or two benefits of the Frosty that really stuck out in your mind for the farm?

Justin: “Well, the one benefit is, it costs less to produce than alfalfa does. You know, the one-year, one-shot thing. It gives us a rotational product that we can use. It’s another tool in the toolbox. Water-wise, once we got the taproots down, it seemed to be fairly fuel efficient on the water. We could water it and kind of let it sit, then water it, let it sit, it wasn’t a real water hog like I thought it might be. It was probably a little less water usage then the alfalfa. By comparison, to watch the Frosty, as it cured down in the bale it gets darker. When I stacked it beside an alfalfa stack the alfalfa gets whiter, and Frosty doesn’t bleach, it just gets darker as the sun shines on it, it seems like.”

GO: Have you fed any of the Frosty yet to your animals?

Justin: “We pushed the moisture a little bit on the third cutting. So, we went in and pulled the bales out that were starting to heat a little bit. We pulled those out, fed them to the sheep and it was interesting to watch the sheep. They just all but licked the ground to get the last little bit of that stuff scooped up. They really seemed to like it quite well.”

GO: Would you recommend Frosty to others?

Justin: “I would for the right guys. I think it would be a good crop. The short seasons here that we have is a little bit of a challenge. This year was not the late fall like we’ve had the past several. The last three or four years we’re way into October, November, before it really gets cold. This year, we were in the latter part of September we were freezing every night. So, we were pretty much done growing anything by the latter part of September. It would’ve been nice if we’d had a longer fall. I really think we probably could’ve pulled another short cutting off it if we’d had one of those real late falls’ like we’ve had.”

So what we are seeing is that farmers are wanting to move into no-till situations and they are trying to figure out which is the best crop to use. Frosty berseem clover seems to be a great fit for this. The difference with Frosty is its improved winter-hardiness compared to VNS berseem, or varieties from warmer climates, that are available in the market today. Although this improvement might not always equate to winter survival, it does allow for more biomass production (which helps with N production, erosion control, weed suppression, etc.). Frosty berseem clover establishes very easily and works well when weed suppression and erosion control are some of your goals. This means Frosty berseem clover can be a species to consider as another tool for working into your crop rotation.

To learn more about Frosty Clover, visit FrostyClover.com

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

Frosty Berseem Clover- you wanted to know.PDF

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Have You Considered Frost Seeding Clover?

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Even though the ground may be frozen or covered with snow where you live, the turn of the year means it is time to seriously start mapping out your spring and summer forage plan.

March is a perfect time to think about dormant seeding your pastures with a legume.

Extended growing seasons, higher yields and feeding quality, along with increased establishment rates and convenience are just a few benefits frost seeding can bring to your farm or ranch.

What Is Frost Seeding?

Dormant seeding, or frost seeding, is accomplished by broadcasting seed across the frozen ground –preferably with no snow cover. The natural heaving of the soils in the winter works the seed into the top 0.25 inches of soil. Since the clover seed can germinate and start growing once weather becomes favorable instead of having to wait until soil firms up enough to get drilling equipment into the field, frost seeding can increase establishment.

What’s The Best Clover For Frost Seeding?

Before giving frost seeding a try, it is important to do your homework on seed selection, only choosing cold tolerant varieties that will survive subfreezing temperatures.

In the past, the most prominent legume specie used in frost seeding was red clover. However, improved plant breeding is bringing more species into the frost seeding offering.

Frosty Berseem Clover

One of the most recent developments is Frosty Berseem Clover, the first cold tolerant berseem clover on the market.

Prior to its development, the ability to capture the benefits of both frost seeding and berseem clover into one system hasn’t been possible. But with the ability to thrive in temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit and zero snow cover, a cold tolerant berseem clover allows for the best of both. 

Cold tolerance isn’t the only thing that makes Frosty Berseem special. Unlike red clover, there haven’t been any cases of bloat documented. Also, unlike red clover, Frosty Berseem does not cause photosensitivity and does not have estrogen related issues.

When it comes to grazing animals, Frosty Berseem clover is the safe choice when renovating pastures with clovers!

frost seeding

Frosty Berseem Clover is also one of the few clovers that doesn’t cause bloat, making it great choice for livestock producers.

In a trial conducted by Mississippi State University, it produced non-bloating forage with crude protein content of 20.5%.

In a separate trial by Pennsylvania State University, the cold tolerant variety produced more than 4 tons of dry matter per acre in a two-cut hay system, while fixing 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre.

Cold tolerant clovers, like Frosty Berseem Clover, can be used to frost seed pastures.

When harvesting that bountiful Frosty crop, make sure to leave enough plant material, or top-growth with leaves so that it can re-grow. About 4 inches will do the trick. Unlike alfalfa, Frosty’s energy factory – which produces re-growth, is in the plant material above ground.

FIXatioN Balansa Clover

FIXatioN Balansa Clover is an excellent choice for incorporating into pastures. FIXatioN has shown very good performance and features crude protein levels and digestibility that exceeds that of most other legumes. While FIXatioN is an annual clover, it is capable of re-seeding itself and thus, will remain part of your pasture for years to come. FIXatioN thrives in heavy clay soils that can become waterlogged and offers the best performance of all clover species in acidic soils.

Crimson Clover

Kentucky Pride Crimson Clover is late maturing, flowering up to two weeks later than other varieties of crimson. It was selected for its unique cold tolerance and ability to produce much more forage than its competitors. Kentucky Pride is an excellent component in mixes providing quality forage. Its roots can grow down beyond 30 inches, breaking down hard pans in the soil.

AberLasting Clover

AberLasting is the first Caucasian white clover hybrid to be developed anywhere that offers drought tolerant rhizomatous root characteristics as well as the nutritive and N-fixing benefits of white clover. Developed through conventional crossing techniques, AberLasting is a small leaved white clover that has proven to be drought tolerant and persistent, even in clover root weevil areas, and therefore is ideal for long term grazing. AberLasting was bred for stress tolerance, grazing tolerance, pest and disease resistance and are fully compatible with all Grassland Oregon ryegrass cultivars.

Dynamite Red Clover

Dynamite is a high-yielding, double-cut red clover that was selected for both improved disease resistance and forage production. It is ideal for use throughout the United States and Canada. It exhibits early spring growth with abundant regrowth after harvest which improves the overall life of stand. It is less fibrous making it more digestible, which can lead to an increase in animal performance in terms of both milk and meat production. Red clover should be avoided if the pasture is used by either horses or sheep.

Frost Seeding Into Alfalfa

Frosty Berseem clover’s physical appearance, forage quality, and dry down time is similar to that alfalfa. Making Frosty the number one choice for filling in thin stands of alfalfa. Frosty is tolerant of wetter soils than alfalfa so if you have areas in your hay field that drowned out, Frosty Berseem can fill the void.

Frosty Berseem Clover is the variety to use to incorporate into declining alfalfa stands. Frosty is a multi-cut berseem clover that is similar in appearance and in forage quality to that of alfalfa. Frosty is also one of the few clover varieties that have been shown to have little to no incidence of bloat.

In a recent trial conducted in Mississippi, Frosty was sown as a monoculture and directly grazed. No bloat was observed among the cattle that were grazing it.

No matter which species you choose, GO Seed has you covered in this low-cost way to improve your forage.

For a printable, PDF version of an earlier version of this blog, click below.

Have You Considered Frost Seeding.PDF

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Experiencing Frosty Berseem Clover in Northern Michigan

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by Guest Blogger, Jeremy Sweeten

My name is Jeremy Sweeten and I am a hay/beef farmer in the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan, about 20 minutes southwest of Sault Saint Marie, MI. I can see Canada when I look to the north of our farm. We raise about 500 acres of timothy hay, custom raise 100 red and black angus beef stockers, and custom raise 50-70 cow calf pairs on 225 acres of pasture. We are also starting a grass fed herd with five bred heifers this year. My real job is working for The CISCO Companies, Indianapolis, IN, as the northern forage agronomist.

The farm ground in the EUP is flat, heavy, and poorly drained clay and clay loam. The pH on our farm ranges from 5.6 to 6.3. The predominant species are timothy and birdsfoot trefoil. The drainage is accomplished with the use of dead furrows on 40-60’ spacing. I know that cover crops work well for improving soils, so as we redo fields and put drainage back in, I want to use cover crops for soil health improvement. I am always looking for more legumes that will grow in our tough soil and environmental conditions to improve grass growth and add protein to the cattle’s ration.

Frosty berseem clover interested me because of its tolerance for saturated soils low pH, beneficial tannins, and high forage quality. I really wanted to be able to graze my cover crop as well to improve cattle weight gains. I bought 100 lbs of Frosty to try. I used 40 lbs to interseed into existing pasture with red and ladino clover. I used a traditional John Deere 8300 drill to interseed my clovers on May 9, 2017. The red clover was seeded at 6 lb/A, ladino at 0.75 lb/A, and the Frosty at 2 lb/A. By May 25, cotyledons were visible from the clover mix.

I used the other 60 lbs of Frosty in a 41 ac cover crop mix that ultimately was 33 acres were mowed and wet wrapped for feed and 8 acres were grazed. The ground was conventionally moldboard plowed to put the drainage furrows every 60’. I used a mixture of BMR forage sorghum, BMR sorghum sudangrass, buckwheat, field peas, Frosty berseem clover, oats, hairy vetch, a mix of annual and perennial ryegrass, festulolium, and radishes. I cleaned out my old seed inventory, but was truly interested in planting a very diverse mixture to kick start my soils after plowing. The mix was seeded at 40 lbs/ac with the same 8300 drill on June 20.

The growing season was cool and wet. Highs were at best in the mid-70’s and lows dipped into the upper 40’s several nights. Not the most ideal growing conditions. So here is what happened. With the Frosty seeded into the pasture, it took 45-60 days for it to become visible. The cattle ate it very well. After talking with GO, my seeding rate was too low and should have been 6-10 lb/A.

The Frosty berseem clover in the cover crop mix performed very well. The mix emerged well and came on steadily throughout the summer. When we cut the CC mix in early October, the Frosty was over waist high and growing profusely. The cattle intake on the grazed cover crop was outstanding. I was able to graze the cover crop mix twice. Our growing season is only 120 days, so that was pretty good for a spring seeding. I left enough regrowth hoping that the Frosty will regrow next spring. In early November, we had one night of -6F with no snow cover. The ground was not frozen. The Frosty appears to still be growing. I will follow up next spring with what I find.

My final thoughts are as follows. I didn’t have enough grazable cover crop to measure any weight difference on the stockers. Gains across the EUP were off this year due to the poor weather conditions. However, judging by the way they ate the Frosty, I will be planting more as a grazing cover crop. I think I will try the 4-6 lb/A range next year. The Frosty handled the standing water and low pH very well. I think the Frosty will help me through the summer slump of the timothy and BFT. Nodule growth was very present. The cover crop was brilliant green with no commercial fertilizer. I was not as impressed overseeding pastures with Frosty. I feel that it doesn’t handle competition or cool, wet soils like red or ladino clovers do. I am confident that Frosty will fit on our farm long term; I just have to learn the best ways to use it.

For a printable, PDF version of this blog, click below.

Experiencing Frosty Berseem Clover in Northern Michigan.PDF