This is the time of year to evaluate your hay and pasture fields to determine if they need to be reseeded. First and foremost, you need to make sure the pH and fertility is adequate for the forages you want to plant. If it is not, the new seeding could germinate then die or never produce to its potential. Next it is a good idea to know what you need for your livestock. For example dry beef cows probably do not need high quality alfalfa and stockers may need a higher quality and more palatable forage then what fescue grass can provide. Other ruminants can graze pastures close so orchard grass which stores energy at the base of the plant may not be a good option if you have sheep or goats too. Poorly drained fields or fields with a lot of deer pressure are not good options for alfalfa. So what should be planted? The following is a list of common forages that can be planted throughout Ohio and their characteristics.
Alfalfa- It is probably the best high quality feed for livestock and as a cash crop but it requires deep, well drained soils and high fertility for high yields. While it can be used for grazing, it is best adapted for hay or silage. Be aware that it can cause bloat when grazed by livestock and purchase improved varieties with good winter hardiness, disease and potato leafhopper resistance.
Birdsfoot Trefoil- This is a deep-rooted perennial legume that is best adapted to northern areas of Ohio and Pennsylvania, but I have seen more growing in southern Ohio over the past three years. It can tolerate low pH, poor soil drainage, marginal fertility and is non-bloating. It is slow to establish, subject to weed invasion so should be planted in a mixed stand, and prone to diseases.
Red Clover- Red clover is a short lived perennial legume but has several advantages. It can tolerate poorly drained and slightly acidic soils and has good seeding vigor. Seeding vigor is important because it can stretch out or improve stands. It is a good option for frost seeding, so in the next month, we can spread this seed on pastures or hay fields. Red clover can be hard to dry for hay bloat can be a problem when grazing if there is not enough grass present.
White Clover- This is a low-growing short lived perennial. This is a good legume to have in pastures especially if short growing grasses like bluegrass are present. It is a good legume if sheep and goats are grazing as they tend to graze closer than cattle. This is a good plant for continuous grazing as it is a prolific seeder, but bloat can be a problem.