NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — There aren’t often many advantages to heavy grazing, particularly in years of drought, but on pastures such as bromegrass that need some help to increase animal performance, heavy fall grazing before interseeding legumes might be the first management step.
Cool-season pastures such as smooth bromegrass often lose yield due to becoming sod-bound. Interseeding legumes in the early spring or through winter frost seeding can help this and provide some additional benefits. Adding legumes into cool-season pastures or hay meadows can increase forage quality and animal performance. Nutrient cycling occurs faster on pastures with legume forage, with cow pies breaking down faster and nutrients are more available to pasture plants. The legumes have more protein, so animal digestion is faster and intake increased. Finally, legumes may decrease the need for supplemental nitrogen fertilizer.
Grazing heavy in the fall will slow growth next year, reducing competition for legume seedlings. As a bonus, this is a great way to get a little extra forage off during the fall. Some grazing in the spring after seeding, and prior to significant legume growth, can also be done to further reduce grass competition. Heavy grazing should be only a one-time practice in the fall before spring planting a legume. There is no advantage to grazing heavy every fall.
Legume interseeded pastures do take a little more management. Preserving legume stands can limit weed control options and make it a little harder to control if the other broadleaf weeds get out of hand.
To review: if spring interseeding legumes into cool-season grass, heavy fall grazing can reduce competition and allow spring-planted legumes a fighting chance.
— Brad Schick, Nebraska Extension
For more news from Nebraska, click here.