Legumes reduce costs, increase production

Feb 10, 2012
by WLJ

Reducing pasture expenses can help your bottom line. Instead of trying to starve a profit from pastures or livestock, invest! This spring, invest in legumes.

Spring-like weather in January and February should get you looking forward to next growing season. You can avoid the expense of paying for nitrogen fertilizer for your pastures by adding legumes to your grazing lands.

Five years of grazing research in eastern Nebraska showed that brome/legume pastures produced almost 0.4 pound (lb.) higher average daily gain on yearlings than did straight brome pastures fertilized with 50 lbs. of nitrogen. That may not sound like a lot, but that 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.

February and March are good months to start adding legumes. Red clover is the easiest 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. — WLJ