Surplus tall fescue growth in pastures will jeopardize interseeded legumes if not harvested as hay, says Craig Roberts, a University of Missouri extension forage specialist. He points out that cool, wet weather has created excess forage in the state’s pastures, and if the lush tall fescue isn’t removed, it might fall over and smother the clover growing with it.
“Get the grass canopy off and that will stimulate clover growth,” Roberts advises.
He says red and white clovers are the most popular legumes interseeded in tall fescue pastures in the state, and they’re worth saving. “As a rule of thumb, clover in a pasture adds a quarter pound of gain per day per calf,” he says. “In some trials, clover added four-tenths pound of gain per calf per day. That is a huge reason for keeping legumes in fescue pasture.”
Legumes also reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer and dilute the endophyte toxins found in most fescue grasses in the state.
With so much grass growth this spring, it might be possible to get two cuttings of hay from some pastures, says Roberts. “We’re approaching the time in early May when fescue reaches the boot stage as the seed heads form. Cutting before the seed head emerges results in better-quality fescue hay.”