Alfalfa is a high quality, high yielding, and perennial legume and is incredibly versatile under proper management. It can be grown in pure stands or mixtures and can be the best choice for a grass-legume grazing. There are numerous grazing tolerant varieties now available.
Red clover is easy to establish, high yielding, high quality and readily grows in a variety of soils. It provides good summer growth, but is not as drought tolerant as alfalfa. Its main disadvantage is it is short-lived and persists for an average of only two winters.
Red clover grows very well with fescue and orchardgrass and can be used to provide excellent grazing or hay. Red clover is seeded in the spring either by renovation or as a new seeding.
White Clover is the most persistent and grazing tolerant legume. It is tolerant to wet conditions and low soil pH and can usually grow where other forage crops will not grow. The yield is not as high as red clover or alfalfa because the bulk of the dry matter is located in the runners on the ground that cattle cannot graze.
White clover spreads by the runners and also does a great job of reseeding itself in some years. White clover presents the greatest bloat risk of all the legumes grown here. However, with good management the problem can be averted.
Lespedezas can be useful in certain situations and are tolerant to hot dry conditions and can be productive on very marginal land. Lespedezas provide the benefits of a legume (quality) without bloat, but are typically lower yielding. Annual lespedezas (Kobe and Korean) are more desirable than perennial types (Sericea) for cattle feed.
Proper management is required to be successful with all these crops. For more information on alfalfa, clover, forage grasses, pasture and hay production, contact the County Extension Office.