By Bruce Anderson
Reducing pasture expenses can help your bottom line, but sometimes you also need to invest. This spring, invest in legumes.
You can avoid the cost of a nitrogen fertilizer on your pastures by adding legumes to your grazinglands. Five years of grazing research in eastern Nebraska showed that brome/legume pastures produced almost four-tenths of a pound higher average daily gain on yearlings than did straight brome pastures fertilized with 50 lbs of nitrogen.
That may not sound like a lot to you, but that much faster gain for the full season produced an extra 51 lbs of beef per acre — with no nitrogen fertilizer. Adding the value of heavier yearlings plus reduced fertilizer expenses resulted in more than an extra $50 per acre profit.
Similar research was conducted with warm-season grasses with nearly the same results. March is a good month to start adding legumes. Red clover is the easiest one to establish because seed can be broadcast on pastures even if they are covered with several inches of snow. As snow melts and temperatures fluctuate in early spring, the seeds will get worked into the soil, germinate, and start to grow. With a little attention to controlling competition from the existing grass, new red clover plants can start increasing your pasture production by summer.