September-seeded clover gives early spring growth
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Spring-season frost seeding makes an easy way to add clover to grass pasture. Fall seeding works better, says Rob Kallenbach.
Fall rains work legume seeds into the soil just as frost does in February, says the University of Missouri Extension specialist.
Legumes can be overseeded into cool-season pastures just as in spring. The main difference: no snow to show where seed has been spread, Kallenbach says.
Before seeding, pastures should be grazed short to cut competition for legume seedlings. Short grass allows small red or white clover seeds to land on a bare spot of soil. When fall rains come, the rain impact covers the seeds.
"Plant now, the earlier the better," Kallenbach says. "Longer days give more sunlight to speed clover growth before winter."
Grass pasture should not be fertilized with nitrogen before seeding. That lowers competition from rapidly growing grass.
"In four years of studies at the MU Forage Systems Research Center in Linneus, we had success with fall seeding," Kallenbach says.
"Autumn-seeded clover gets an earlier start next spring. Clover starts growing early the following spring. Success improved when good autumn rains came soon after seeding," he adds.
Adding legumes to grass pastures boosts forage quality. Clover and grass makes better feed for grazing cow herds.
Spring-calving cows need good forage when they start nursing their calves.
Clover in the grass encourages growing calves to start eating forage.
With strong outlook for high calf prices, improved pastures will pay good returns next spring.
Fall spreading of nitrogen fertilizer on pastures not being seeded to legumes improves growth for stockpiled pastures. Fall grass growth can be held back for grazing in winter. That cuts need for hay.
"There was a lot of hay baled in the wet, cool growing season," Kallenbach says. "A lot of bad hay! Wet weather ruined the haymaking season."
Fall growth of fescue grass will be of higher quality than spring growth, Kallenbach says. "In fall, there are no seed heads. Protein and nutrients reach a fall peak. Fall-grown fescue always gives better feed than baled hay."