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.
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:
- Protein Levels
- 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.