Save on the cost of commercial nitrogen (N) fertilizer for your pastures this spring by adding legumes instead, suggests Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist. Bromegrass-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 N, according to five years of eastern Nebraska grazing research.
“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,” Anderson says. “Adding the value of heavier yearlings plus reduced fertilizer expenses resulted in more than an extra $50/acre profit. That’s $50 more per acre!”
Similar research was conducted with warm-season grasses with nearly the same results, he adds.
February and March are good months to start adding legumes, he says. Red clover is the easiest to establish because its seed can be broadcast on pastures even if they’re covered with several inches of snow. As snow melts and temperatures fluctuate in early spring, seeds will work into the soil, germinate and start to grow. Control competition from existing grasses and new red clover plants will start increasing your pasture production by summer.