Birdsfoot trefoil is a long-lived perennial legume ideally suited for many grass-legume
pastures in Missouri. It grows and produces forage during July and August when most
cool-season grasses are semi-dormant. Trefoil does not cause bloat, as do many other
commonly used legumes. A combination of trefoil and bluegrass or other cool-season
grasses will produce three times as much feed as unimproved grass. Even heavily fertilized
grass will produce one-third less beef per acre than a trefoil-bluegrass combination.
Other benefits from introducing trefoil into grass pastures include 30 percent higher
daily gains by the grazing animals and more uniform distribution of forage production.
Trefoil makes 60 percent of its production during June, July and August. It requires
a special inoculum for first plantings and is slow to become established. The plants
grow 12-30 inches. The nutritive value is equal to or greater than alfalfa with a
digestibility of 70-78%. Plants contain tannins that prevent bloat and could be important
to reduce barberpole worms.
Crude protein – 16-21%
Can yield 1.5-4 tons per acre
Chicory (Perennial herb)
A perennial plant that is suited to well-drained or moderately drained soils with
medium- to high-fertility levels and a pH of 5.5 or greater. Chicory produces leafy
growth which is higher in nutritive and mineral content (if managed properly) than
is produced by alfalfa or cool-season grasses. It has a relatively deep taproot which
provides for tolerance to drought conditions. Chicory provides both spring and summer
forage with average growth rates from April through October of 50 pounds per acre
per day. During peak growth periods chicory produces 73 pounds per acre per day.
Forage chicory is a low-growing rosette plant with broad leaves in the winter, very
much like dandelion. With warm temperatures in the spring it produces large numbers
of leaves from the crown. In late spring, after the establishment year, a few flower
stems begin to develop from the crown and will reach heights of 6 feet if ungrazed.
Crude protein – 10-32%
Crimson clover (Annual legume)
is among the most widely planted annual forage legumes in the United States. Crimson
clover can be grown as a winter annual from Kentucky southward and from east Texas
to the Atlantic ocean, though it is most commonly grown on sandy, droughty soils
in the Deep South where perennial clovers are not well adapted. It can also be grown
as a winter annual in the western parts of the Pacific Northwest, and is sometimes
grown as a summer annual in Canada or the extreme northern portion of the United
States. Crimson clover is a versatile plant used to produce forage for livestock,
for soil conservation, as a green manure crop, as a source of pollen and nectar for
bees, and for land beautification. It is an erect plant with a growth period between
October to June. The peak months of production are November, March to May. It is
very high quality with 70-75% digestibility. Can cause bloat in animals.
Crude protein – 16-22%
Can yield 1-2 tons per acre
Hairy vetch (Annual legume)
Hairy vetch is a legume used primarily for soil improvement along roadsides and for
bank stabilization. Well-nodulated hairy vetch can enrich the soil with 60 to 120
lb/acre of nitrogen through nitrogen fixation. Later seeded vetch grown as a cover
crop for green manure, will supply a smaller amount of N. Vetches are also grown
for pasture. They withstand trampling, provide grazing during May and June and have
a feeding value slightly lower than that of clover and alfalfa. Vetch is often grown
with a small grain for forage; rye is generally used for this purpose in the Upper
Midwest. It is mixed with Annual Ryegrass mostly in the Texas area. The Ryegrass
supports the weak stems of the vetch and reduces lodging. However, when grown together,
vetch and ryegrass make a hay that is fair in quality but tangles badly. (see our
Ryegrass & Hairy Vetch usage)
Crude protein – 12-20%
Can yield 1.5-3.5 tons per acre
Kentucky Bluegrass (Perennial)
is a short-to medium height, cool-season, long-lived, highly palatable, perennial
grass that has smooth, soft, green to dark green leaves with boat-shaped tips. General
period of growth is March to November with the peak months being March to May and
September. It spreads via rhizomes to form a dense sod and grows best during cool,
moist weather on well-drained, fertile soils. Kentucky bluegrass is found in most
pastures in the northeastern United States because it tolerates close and frequent
grazing better than other cool-season forage grasses. This ability makes Kentucky
bluegrass an ideal species for permanent pastures that are continuously grazed. In
addition, the dense sod formed by Kentucky bluegrass rhizomes make it ideal for erosion
control, particularly in grass waterways. Digestibility is 75-80%. It is not as productive
as orchardgrass or tall fescue.
Crude Protein 14-20%
Can yield 2-3 tons per acre
Ladino Clover (Perennial legume)
Ladino clover is a giant form of white clover. More than 50% of the yield occurs
from March to June. It is a rapidly-growing perennial, which spreads with prostrate
stolons. In the seedling year, ladino clover may produce stolons that are 12 to 15
inches long. Ladino clover is extremely high quality with greater than 80% digestibility.
Ladino clover is seldom sown in pure stands because of the difficulty to harvest
and cure as hay. It is usually sown in pasture mixtures at about 1 pound per acre
to keep the ratio of clover to grass low and reduce the bloat hazard. Ladino clover
is only moderately hardy and has a shallow root system. It does best on heavy soils
where moisture is readily available during the growing season. It does not do well
on light-sandy soils, unless frequently irrigated. It will persist through natural
reseeding and the rooting of young stolons. Growth is restricted by high summer temperatures.
Crude protein 25%
Can yield 3-4 tons per acre
is a bunch-type, tall-growing, cool-season grass. It is one of the most productive
cool-season grasses, tolerant to shade, fairly drought resistant with moderate winter
hardiness. Orchardgrass does not exhibit as much tolerance to drought or winter hardiness
as tall fescue and bromegrass. Orchardgrass is fast-growing and matures very early
in the spring. There are some varietal variations but, in general, orchardgrass matures
about one week earlier than tall fescue and about two weeks before smooth bromegrass.
It also regrows quickly after harvest, making it well suited for seeding with frequently
harvested alfalfa. It produces less fall growth than tall fescue under similar growing
conditions. The bunch-type growth characteristic and shade tolerance combine to make
orchardgrass well adapted to grow with competitive tall growing legumes such as alfalfa
and red clover. One undesirable trait is that forage quality of spring growth declines
rapidly as maturity increases. However, orchardgrass re-growth, which is mostly leaves,
is very high in quality. It grows well with legumes like ladino clover and red clover
and has 73-78% digestibility when immature. It declines with maturity to 58-65%.
Crude protein 14-20 % immature.
Can yield 2-4 tons per acre
Red Clover (Perennial legume)
It is an erect, short-lived perennial, is the most widely grown of all the true
clovers. Growth occurs from March to November with 50% of yield in April to June.Classifying
red clover is sometimes confusing, but the red clovers grown in the United States
may be grouped into two divisions -- early flowering and late flowering. The more
useful of the two types grown in Missouri is the early-flowering type, usually referred
to as medium red clover. This type produces two or three hay crops per year and is
usually treated as a biennial although it is actually a short-lived perennial. Some
new medium varieties will produce to their full capacity for three years or more.
An example is Kenstar, which was released by the University of Kentucky. The late-flowering
types are referred to as mammoth red clovers. They usually produce one hay crop plus
an aftermath growth. Mammoth red clover has yielded from 15 to 40 percent less hay
in tests throughout the lower Corn Belt. Mammoth red clover is not recommended for
use in Missouri; its best performance is in areas with short growing seasons such
as Canada.When grown for hay, it is usually grown in mixture with orchardgrass or
tall fescue. Hay quality ranges from 60-65% digestibility.
Crude protein – 18%
Can yield 3-4 tons per acre.
Adapted to most soils. It is a bunch-type leafy growth. Even though it is an Annual,
it can self reseed readily. The peak season is early spring. Annual ryegrass has
very little cold tolerance and therefore would behave like an annual in the Midwest
except in mild winters or with excellent snow cover. It has potential, as an annual
forage crop, to provide high quality grazing. It will produce high yields and maintains
productivity through the mid-summer slump better than most other cool season grasses.
It is easy to establish and grows rapidly. Plants will produce heads in the seeding
year. This characteristic reduces quality unless plants are grazed prior to seed
head emergence. Planting later maturing varieties will make it easier to graze plants
before heading occurs.
Annual ryegrass is the grass of choice for frost seeding to improve pasture quality
because it establishes rapidly, yields better than other ryegrass types through summer,
and has the highest yields in the seeding year. It is also recommended for use as
a cover crop when establishing new seedings of pasture. Adding it to a seed mixture
with a legume and a more permanent cool season grass, like bromegrass, timothy or
orchardgrass, will provide rapid growth and high quality forage in the seeding year.
The ryegrass will die in 1 to 3 years leaving behind the other grasses and legumes.
Crude protein 14-17% early
Can yield 2-4 tons per acre
Tall Fescue (Perennial)
Tall fescue is one of the most adaptable grasses grown for grazing purposes. Fescue
is used to overseed warmer grass pastures in areas of adaptation and fill in while
the warm season forage is in dormancy. can withstand heavy grazing pressure, has
a massive root system that aids in erosion control, survives drought and flood, and
can be stockpiled for winter grazing. Laboratory analyses also indicate that tall
fescue is as high in quality as other cool-season grasses such as orchardgrass and
Unfortunately, because of tall fescue toxicosis much of the benefit of the grass's
superior agronomic characteristics is wasted. Ruminant livestock and horses seldom
have performed as well on tall fescue as they have on other cool-season forages.
Livestock have been noted to exhibit one or more of the following symptoms when consuming
tall fescue pasture or hay: nervousness, rough hair coat, elevated body temperature,
reduced forage intake and weight gain, low conception rate, excessive water consumption
and urine volume, reduced milk production, and more time spent in the shade.
Cool-season perennial grass and grass-legume pastures typically become less productive
as the grazing season advances from June to November. Forage brassica crops such
as turnip, swede, rape, and kale can be spring-seeded to supplement the perennial
cool-season pastures in August and September or summer-seeded to extend the grazing
season in November and December. Brassicas are annual crops which are highly productive
and digestible and can be grazed 80 to 150 days after seeding, depending on the species
(see table on back page). Studies in southwestern Pennsylvania showed that turnip
can accumulate dry matter in October as fast as field corn does in August. Growing
“out of season” (October/November) makes turnip a valuable crop for late fall grazing.
The proportions of tops and roots varies markedly depending on variety, crop age,
and planting date. Research by the USDA Pasture Laboratory showed that turnip crops
can vary from 90 percent tops/10 percent roots to 15 percent tops/85 percent roots.
Some hybrids have fibrous roots which will not be readily grazed by livestock. All
varieties produce primarily tops during the first 45 days of growth. Sixty to 90
days after seeding, turnip varieties such as ‘Savannah’ and ‘All Top’ continue to
produce a high proportion of tops. During the same period, other turnip varieties
have nearly equal top and root production, except ‘Purple Top’ has a greater root
than top production. The significance in the proportion of tops and roots is that
the crude protein concentration (8 to 10%) of roots is approximately one-half of
that in turnip tops. Therefore, greater root production tends to reduce the crude
protein yield of the total crop.
Crude protein - 15 to 25 percent in the herbage and 8 to 15 percent in the roots,
depending on the level of nitrogen fertilization and weather conditions.