Pastures and hay meadows provide higher quality feed, are more productive, and cheaper to grow if they have good forage legumes growing in them. Nitrogen fertilizer is expensive, so expensive it's difficult to justify fertilizing pastures. So instead, let's grow our own N.
The biggest challenge to establishing legumes into grass sod is competition by existing grass on new, slow growing seedlings. Anything you do to reduce competition and slow down grass growth will help. Weakening the grass to slow down its spring growth will give new legume seedlings a better chance to get started.
Well, guess what! You can take advantage of this year's drought. It surely has weakened your grasses. And if you keep grazing this fall, I mean really grubbing it down hard, your grass will greenup later and grow slower next spring. Legumes you interseed next spring - like red clover, alfalfa, and birdsfoot trefoil - will take advantage of this reduced competition to get established, giving you a more nutritious and less expensive pasture for years to come.
Do you have a hay meadow or pasture that is relatively free of weeds and makes up no more than about 15 to 20 percent of your total pasture acres? If so, this is the perfect place to add legumes.
Now is the time to start preparing. Besides taking advantage of the drought and heavy fall grazing, also collect some soil samples. Then analyze them and apply any needed fertilizer this fall so you don't need to do it next spring. Legumes especially need good phosphorus and soil pH. Add some legumes to your pasture next spring. Your pastures, your livestock, and your pocketbook all will be better because of it.