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Overseeding alfalfa field with clover can add bulk, nutrition

Grassland Oregon 0320M1-2062a
ADDED NUTRITION: Overseeding an alfalfa field with frosty berseem clover can increase the nutritional value and yield of hay.
Frosty berseem clover mixed with alfalfa can boost yields of hay by almost 30%.

If your alfalfa field is now 5 or 6 years old and starting to lose fullness, overseeding that field with Frosty berseem clover might be a way to beef up your hay harvest through the summer.

"At the end of March when fields green up and start growing is a good time to check and see what kind of stand you've got," says Jason Stucky, a cover crop seedsman in Valley Center. "Overseeding clover can bump up the protein in the hay, but you still have basically an alfalfa-based feed."

Berseem clover looks more like alfalfa than the typical red or white clover crops that many farmers are familiar with, he says.

"It can even be a little hard to tell the clover from the alfalfa," he says.

Crude protein levels in Frosty clover have been measured ranging from 16.5% to 22.1%, with relative feed values measured as high as 182.

Recent studies have shown that an 80-20 alfalfa-berseem clover mix could increase yield, crude protein, and water-soluble carbohydrate levels in hay fields. Hay yields were reported to be increased by more than 30%.

Grassland Oregon

SEED IN HAND: Frosty berseem clover seed can be treated or untreated and used either as part of a forage cover crop mix or overseeded into alfalfa fields to increase nutritional value and yield.

In addition to being an excellent choice for supplementing alfalfa fields, Frosty is a good component for a forage cover crop mix, Stucky says, because it can be both grazed and baled for hay.

Adding crimson clover to an existing brome or prairie grass pasture is also a way to extend the grazing season and add some nutrition, he says.

"There's a brand called Kentucky Pride that just came out for grazing," Stucky says. "It is a little more winter-hardy and breaks dormancy earlier."

For farmers with backyard chicken flocks, crimson clover has another purpose: Chickens love it, and it makes for deep yellow, good-tasting egg yolks.

Crimson clover adds nitrogen to the soil and additionally functions as a good "green manure" crop, Stucky says.

TAGS: Forage
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