Some varieties are lower in the gramine alkaloids that reduce palatability, intake and animal performance. For high yields and persistence, alfalfa requires well-drained soil, a pH above 6.1, adequate fertility and proper harvest management. In the spring of the second year, it grows quickly to become a tall, coarse-stemmed plant. Alfalfa hay can contain almost two times the protein and three times the calcium of grass hay. Birdsfoot trefoil, similar to alfalfa, has a critical fall harvest period, beginning about 10 days earlier than alfalfa. Timothy is palatable and high yielding in first cut. Some of these native grasses, when cut before seed heads mature, are very palatable and high enough in protein content for calves and lactating cows, without having to add a supplemental protein source. A seed-borne systemic fungus (an endophyte) has been linked to poor animal performance on tall fescue pasture. Kentucky Bluegrass is a highly palatable grass that tolerates heavy traffic and close, frequent grazing better than other cool-season grasses, making it well adapted for permanent pastures. It spreads by rhizomes, and the stand can thicken over time. Meadow fescue yields well during the summer and fall and maintain its feed quality later into the season than most grass species. Legumes include alfalfa and clover, two popular choices for energy and nutrition. All have stolons, which are stems that creep on the ground, with branches that are erect or upward slanting. My goal is 50% total legumes in pastures. Thus alfalfa is often fed to animals that need more protein and minerals. In Florida, the following types of hay … During cold weather you need to feed your cattle more roughage, rather than more legume hay. Regrowth is vegetative and does not form a seed head, so second- and third-cuts can be high quality. The secret to higher gain — and higher consumer acceptability relative to grass-finished beef — is the exceptionally high quality of the forage, which has low fiber and high energy, and is similar in nutritive value to a feedlot-finishing ration. This site is maintained by Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment in the College of Natural Sciences. If hay must be hauled very far, the price of fuel (in freight costs added to the base price) will make the total very expensive. Dairy cows require the highest quality legume hay to keep up with milk production. Hay falls into several categories: grass, legume, mixed (containing grass and a legume) and cereal grain straw (such as oat hay). Some hayfields consist of “wild hay” or “meadow hay” as compared to “tame” hay grasses that have been planted. Its inferior forage quality as compared to more commonly used legumes (eg alfalfa and red clover) limits its utility. Next to pasture, good quality hay is the most ideal feed. Some grasses have rhizomes or underground stems that produce new shoots at each node. Alsike produces only one cut of hay per year and is not normally a preferred forage legume. Better drought tolerance results in more regrowth in second cut. Reed canarygrass is best known for its ability to tolerate poorly drained soils. The Legumes provide good quality forage and fix nitrogen over an extended portion of the year. Not only does it not require nitrogen fertilizer, Rio Verde lablab is found palatable by both cattle and wildlife, says its developer, Ray Smith, Experiment Station plant breeder based at Overton, TX. Good palatable grass hay, cut while still green and growing, can be very adequate, but if grass hay is coarse and dry (with little vitamin A or protein), you’ll need to add some legume hay to their diet. Meadow fescue is a hardy grass used in hay and pasture mixtures. In Massachusetts reed canarygrass has been considered as invasive species and buying and selling seeds is prohibited. The inside should still be green, however, even if the outer edges have faded due to exposure to rain and sun. Cool-season or temperate legumes produce most of thei… When properly fertilized and managed, Kentucky bluegrass production can be markedly improved, especially during spring. It is also well adapted to soils with marginal drainage. Leaves of grass hay have more nutrients and are more digestible when the plant is immature and growing, and more fiber when the plant has reached full growth. Dairy cattle need the best hay— with the most nutrients per pound— since they are producing more milk than a beef cow. It d… The yellow-flowered is more palatable to livestock and more attractive to bees. Hay that grows fast doesn’t have as much time to absorb minerals from the soil, for instance, and some types of plants mature too quickly; they may be too coarse and stemmy (and past bloom stage, with less nutrient quality than green, growing plants) by the time the hay is harvested. Alyceclover – Alysicarpus vaginalis . Providing a supplement with an ionophore such as Rumensin® as well as the use of poloxalene (Bloatguard®) several days before turning cattle into pasture with legumes can help reduce the risk of bloat. Your email address will not be published. Soybeans may not be a new forage crop. Resources from UMass Extension and the Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment: ag.umass.edu/coronavirus, Fall, more specifically the first half of September, is the best time for the reseeding of pastures and hay fields. Legumes. Meadow fescue is shorter, has finer leaves and a shallower root system than tall fescue and is not as persistent. Moldy sweet clover hay may contain dicoumarol, which can prevent normal blood clotting and result in the death of livestock from bleeding. They require high levels of phosphorus, potassium and, in acid soil, lime. Although individual plants live for only a few years, stands of birdsfoot trefoil have remained productive for 10 or more years when allowed to go to seed. Ongoing studies at Utah State University are demonstrating that spring-born cattle can be finished on legume pastures in a time frame similar to feedlot-finished cattle. Alfalfa is the most important perennial forage legume for hay production and is sometimes used for grazing. Adapted statewide. Protein content will vary depending on when the hay is cut and the maturity of it at the time of cutting. Sweet clover does not flower in the year of establishment. Orchardgrass is not as winter-hardy as either timothy or bromegrass and will not persist in wet soils. Orchardgrass will grow much more vigorously in the warm, dry conditions of midsummer than timothy or bromegrass, resulting in a greater proportion of grass in the second and third cutting of alfalfa-grass mixtures. Legumes are only being grown in about one-third of the acre-age where they could be grown. If buying alfalfa hay, you’ll want to know if it is first, second or third cutting (or later), and at what stage of growth it was harvested. Grass vs. Legume Forages for Dairy Cattle by Jim Paulson, Mary Raeth-Knight, James Linn, University of Minnesota and Hans Jung, USDA-ARS Alfalfa is the primary forage fed to lactating dairy cows; however, there is renewed interest in utilizing grass forages in lactating Hay should smell good, not musty, sour or moldy. The pasture-adapted varieties tend to have finer leaves, smaller and more numerous tillers, and are later maturing than the hay varieties. Hay samples can be tested; core samples from several bales can be sent to a hay testing lab for analysis. They have very fibrous roots that help bind the soil together, thereby reducing erosion. If buying grass hay, maturity at harvest will also make a difference in its nutrient quality. This is always wise when trying to evaluate hay for protein or mineral content. It grows best during cool, moist weather on well-drained, fertile soils. Alyceclover is a popular legume for use as a hay and cover crop in Southeastern U.S. Straw (aftermath from harvest of oats, barley or wheat) provides energy — created by fermentation breakdown in the rumen. In drought years when hay is scarce, it will cost a lot more than on years when there is plentiful supply. It is easy to establish in early spring or late summer and is adapted to heavier soils and variable drainage. When seeded in mixtures, red clover can suppress the establishment of other legumes. In the past, livestock have performed poorly on reed canarygrass because of certain alkaloids it contained. Flakes should separate easily and not be stuck together. Grasses have many long, slender leaves that are borne on a stem. As a family, legumes produce higher quantities of protein than grasses. It has a high bloat potential and a … There are three general types of white clover: ladino, white Dutch, and small wild white. Sweet clover is a slow-growing biennial often used to alleviate compaction. It grows best on deep, fertile soils, but will tolerate variable drainage and low fertility. Proper nutrition for common livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, and horses is vital. Warm-season legumes initiate growth in late spring after soil temperatures reach 65°F. About 2/3 of the energy and 3/4 of the protein and other nutrients are in the leaves of a forage plant (whether grass or legume). Th e bulk of hay for beef cattle is stored in large round bales Grass hay can be lower in phosphorus and is always lower in calcium than alfalfa, but a combination hay made up of alfalfa and grass is better for beef cows than straight alfalfa hay. Legumes also supply a considerable amount of nitrogen to the grass portion of the mixture. The ability of these plants to fix atmospheric nitrogen makes them an inexpensive protein source. Legumes used for hay include alfalfa, various types of clover (such as red, crimson, alsike and ladino), lespedeza, birds-foot trefoil, vetch, soybean and cowpeas. It also tends to be more palatable than other hay types. The seeding rate for alfalfa is 10 to 15 pounds per acre. There are two general types of red clover: double-cut or "medium" red clover and single-cut or "mammoth" red clover. These recently released forage soybeans distinguish themselves at first glance; the rather leggy legumes can stand more than six … Relative cost for hay will vary around the country, with cost reflecting supply and demand — along with freight costs to haul it. I’ve been slightly droughty, and on my third rotation through the pastures, over 50% of the forage was clover from the spring seeding. The quality of the hay needed will also depend on whether you are feeding mature beef cattle, young calves, or dairy cattle. Proper soil fertility and pH, along with well-drained soils, are critical for high forage yields and long-lived stands. It is a leaf protein with well-balanced amino acid profile; alfalfa is one of the major sources of protein for livestock, including poultry birds in free-range system or organic poultry farming. It is best used in rotational grazing. Usually the protein range for Alfalfa is 16% to 18% . Hay quality can vary greatly, depending on growing conditions (wet or dry weather, hot or cool). Try to select hay that has been protected from weather by a tarp or hay shed, unless you are buying it directly out of the field after baling. I get a little naturally occurring alfalfa that comes from the purchased hay I feed, but most of the legume is clover. But, three new varieties, bred specifically for high crude protein and dry matter levels, may offer beef producers another annual forage option. There is always some risk of nitrate poisoning, however, if cereal grain hays are harvested after a spurt of growth following a drought period. Well-managed alfalfa normally persists for 3 or more years. hay, silage) can be more profitable due to lower cost per kilogram of weight gain in livestock. If a handful of hay bends easily in your hand, the fiber content is relatively low. In a crop rotation program, they can significantly improve soil nitrogen levels by nitrogen fixation or by incorporation in soil as a green manure crop. It produces more protein per unit area than other forage legumes and can be grown alone or in combination with various grass species. Alfalfa is the most frequently grown forage legume and the highest-yielding perennial forage crop grown in many countries. Required fields are marked *. But the stems become coarser and more fibrous. Check for heat (and smell the hay) to know if it’s fermented. It is used for grazing, hay, and silage, as well as a green manure and cover crop.The name alfalfa is used in North America. Since birdsfoot trefoil seedlings are slow to establish, at least a year is required to get a satisfactory stand. Alfalfa (/ æ l ˈ f æ l f ə /), also called lucerne and called Medicago sativa in binomial nomenclature, is a perennial flowering plant in the legume family Fabaceae.It is cultivated as an important forage crop in many countries around the world. Good hay will be uniformly green and smell good, with no brown spots or moldy portions. Its major drawback tends to be its large fluffy seed, which makes it difficult to seed through the small seed box of drills. It does not establish well if it is either surface seeded or seeded deeper than 5 cm (2 in.). Kelln also said the cost per acre to seed the legumes, amortized over the suggested typical 10-year life of a pasture, was $24.49 for the cicer milkvetch and $21.97 for the sainfoin. Alfalfa is normally sown between mid-August and … As a feed crop, red clover is most often stored as silage since it is difficult to dry, and often results in "dusty" or "moldy" hay. They can be overseeded into permanent pastures or seeded with winter annual pastures. Calves often chew on and eat twines, which can create fatal blockage in the gut. In pastures, they serve as a bottom grass that controls weed invasion, withstands close grazing and tramping, and fills in when other species thin out.Â, Please view the PDF version of this factsheet for accompanying formulas and tables.Â, UMass Research and Education Center Farms, Conservation Assessment Prioritization System (CAPS), Extension Risk Management/Crop Insurance Education, North American Aquatic Connectivity Collaborative, Civil Rights and Non-Discrimination Information. Red clover is a short-lived perennial. Alfalfa stems, for example, are woody, serving as structural support for the plant. Perennial ryegrass is a short-lived perennial that comes in turf, pasture and hay-adapted varieties. Grasses with rhizomes are capable of thickening up a stand. Hay will fit into four categories: grass, legume, a mixture of grass and legume, and cereal grain straw. It can grow on soils that are acidic and poorly drained. Proper seedbed preparation and seeding methods are important. Some of the more common grass hays include timothy, brome, orchard grass and bluegrass. Smooth bromegrass is an earlier, more aggressive grass than timothy. Alsike clover is a perennial although it is often treated as a biennial. Check for weeds, mold, dust, discoloration due to weathering (to know if the cut hay was rained on before being baled and stacked). Th e hay supply for winter feeding comes primarily from excess cool-season forage grasses in spring and is usually harvested too late for highest quality and animal performance. The bottom layer of bales may also be moldy if the stack sat on ground that draws moisture. Temperate legumes include clovers, medics, peas, vetch and alfalfa. You often can’t tell the quality of hay by looking at the outside. Sericea lespedeza: Better adapted to soils with acid subsoils in southern IN. h . It is a short-lived perennial that can reseed itself. New shoots originate from the crown of the plant, and the growing point of each shoot is located at the top of the shoot. Alfalfa weevil and three- cornered alfalfa hopper are the main insect problems but all can be controlled with insecticides. Odor also gives a good clue to quality. Use of red clover as a plow down (cover crop) has become an important practice on many farms. Single-cut does not flower in the seeding year or after the first cut in succeeding years. Once introduced by infected seed, the fungus cannot be controlled in an established stand of tall fescue. In some parts of the country fescue, reed canary grass, ryegrass and Sudan grass are common. Legumes such as alfalfa may have 50 to 60 percent total digestible nutrients (TDN), whereas mature grass hays have 45 to 50 percent TDN. Grasses are lower in protein than legumes when cut at a similar stage of development. Many of the native or volunteer plants that grow in uncultivated hayfields are good, nutritious grasses that make acceptable hay for beef cattle. Orchardgrass develops earlier and is much more aggressive than timothy or bromegrass. Selecting the appropriate forage for hay, pasture, and/or conservation use is an important decision facing producers. Alfalfa has a 6-week critical fall harvest period that should be observed to avoid winterkill. They do best with fine, soft hay that’s cut before bloom stage; it not only contains more nutrients, but is also much easier to eat. Tall fescue is a coarse, leafy grass that is useful in long-term pastures and erosion control. During winter, drought or any other times that animals do not have adequate pasture, hay is the mainstay of diet for cattle. ©2020 University of Massachusetts Amherst • Site Policies, Best Management Practices (BMP)/Environmental Protection, Center for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment, Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment. If buying straw to feed, select good quality, clean straw. Roots are shallow and fibrous and develop from nodes of the creeping stolons. Double-cut will flower in the seeding year, with vigorous regrowth after cutting. We’ll give you an overview of common hay options for your livestock. A very large tap root gives legumes such as alfalfa, kura clover and sweetclover greater drought tolerance than other forage legumes. Coarse, thick-stemmed hay (overly mature) has more fiber and less nutrition than immature, leafy hay with finer stems. In northern parts of the U.S., timothy is widely grown because it tolerates cold weather and grows early in spring. Moldy hay, or hay that heated too much after being baled will usually be heavy, stuck together, and dusty. Alsike clover can cause photosensitivity and liver damage in horses, so it should not be included in horse hay or pasture mixtures. Single-cut is slower growing and matures about 2 weeks later than double-cut. Perennial ryegrass is early and vigorous in the spring, and grows well into the fall, but is unproductive during the hot, dry summer months. Kura clover must be inoculated with the correct strain of Rhizobium bacteria. Other factors that affect nutritional value include plant species, fertility of soil, harvesting methods (whether the hay was crimped and conditioned to dry faster, losing less leaves and nutrients during drying) and curing time. There are two types of sweet clover: white-flowered and yellow-flowered. In cold weather, cattle do better if fed extra roughage (grass hay or straw), since they have a large “fermentation vat” (rumen). This past year, the frost-seeding worked very well. You should also open a few bales and look at the hay inside, to check texture, maturity, color and leafiness. Grasses such as orchardgrass and the ryegrasses tend to be more competitive with alfalfa than timothy or bromegrass. Alfalfa is the most frequently grown forage legume and the highest-yielding perennial forage crop grown in many countries. Rained-on hay that had to be redried will be dull in color—yellow or brown, rather than bright green. Keep in mind, however, that some types of mold may cause abortion in pregnant cows. Rotational graz- ing will increase production and life of the stand. Its primary use is hay for dairy cows and horses. Types of Hay. All three are similar in appearance but differ in size, with wild white being the smallest and ladino the largest. © 2020, Countryside - All Rights Reserved, The Jersey Cow: Milk Production for the Small Homestead, How to Sell Produce to Restaurants: 11 Tips for Modern Farmers. As a general rule, good quality legume hay costs more than grass hay (due to higher protein content), unless you live in a region where legume hay is the primary crop. Primarily composed of annual grasses that need replanting each year. Because of their expense, annual pastures may not be the best types of pastures for dry pregnant cows, which can be maintained very well on less expensive forages such as high quality hay. Its ability to maintain good feed quality into late fall makes it useful in "stockpile grazing" or fall-saved pasture for deferred grazing. Kura clover has poor seedling vigour and is difficult to establish. As long as the plant mix is predominantly grasses of palatable types (rather than weeds or swamp grasses), meadow hay is quite adequate for winter feed—especially for mature cows that don’t need high levels of protein. Most dairy cattle will not milk adequately on grass hay, nor on stemmy, coarse alfalfa without many leaves. White clover is used mainly in pastures. Hay that grows slowly in cool weather is often more fine and palatable, with more nutrients per pound, than hay growing rapidly in hot weather. In some parts of the country fescue, reed canary grass, ryegrass and Sudan grass are common. Selecting the right species is the fundamental first step in forage management. Cattle can generally tolerate dustier hay than can horses, and can often eat a little mold without problems. Also check for foreign material in the bales, such as rocks, sticks, baling twines or wire. Birdsfoot trefoil is a non-bloating legume best suited for permanent pasture situations. All recommended varieties are endophyte-free. If properly inoculated, legumes have the capacity to use atmospheric nitrogen, eliminating the need to apply nitrogen from commercial sources. GRASS/LEGUME PASTURE MIXTURES Increasing pasture productivity and profit potential Growing and finishing cattle on pasture rather than on conserved forage (e.g. There is a wide range of grasses and legumes available, and each species has its own particular plant and seed characteristics, making it more or less suitable for a producer's purpose. The presence of coumarin in sweet clover makes it less palatable to livestock. This will influence the grass-to-legume ratio of an established stand. White clover has low tolerance to drought but is relatively tolerant to frequent grazing and has good palatability. Perennial ryegrass is not well suited to areas with prolonged ice cover and extreme cold without adequate snow cover. Rio Verde lablab, a recently released forage legume by the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, could provide some relief to nitrogen fertilizer cost-shock. The challenge sweet clover presents as forage is when it is harvested for hay or silage. Plant breeders have developed newer varieties that are later maturing, do not decline in palatability and digestibility as early and match more closely the maturity of other species in a mixture. The hay can be tested for nitrate content if you are considering using this type of hay. White sweet clover is deeper rooted, taller and coarser, which makes it more suitable as cover crop than for forage. Alfalfa hay that has heated excessively may be brown and “caramelized,” smelling sweet or a little bit like molasses. Grass species differ in their competitiveness with legumes. Although some varieties have been developed for improved regrowth, regrowth after first-cut and mid-season production is not as high as that from either bromegrass or orchardgrass. Excellent pasture renovation legume and short term hay rotation crop. It develops coarse stems and leaves, and quickly loses palatability and digestibility after heading. Barley straw is not as well liked, and wheat straw is least desirable as feed. Mature beef cattle can get by on rather plain hay—of any type—but if lactating they will need adequate protein. It does not do well in hot climates, however. Cereal grain crops (especially oats) are sometimes cut while still green and growing, rather than waiting for the seed heads to mature for grain. Notify me via e-mail if anyone answers my comment. Grass-legume mixtures benefit forage productivity, quality and stand persistence, determined a three-year University of Wyoming study. Current recommended reed canarygrass varieties are free of tryptomine and carboline alkaloids, which cause poor performance. Legume forages might also be considered for a livestock operation. It is palatable when young but loses palatability and digestibility more quickly than other grasses. Smooth bromegrass is palatable and tends to retain its nutritional value with increasing maturity better than most grasses. 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Drawback tends to be redried will be uniformly green and smell the hay,.