You can boost gains for yearlings grazing brome grass if the pasture is fortified with legumes.

Preliminary research at the University of Nebraska indicates that yearling calves gain as much as half a pound more per day when grazing on legume pastures instead of brome pastures fertilized with nitrogen.

Legumes interseeded in cool-season grasses also reduce the need for 50 pounds of nitrogen fertilizer annually, says Bruce Anderson, a University of Nebraska forage scientist. In the research, calves benefited more from alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil or kura clover interseeded into brome grass than on brome grass fertilized with 50 pounds of nitrogen. The reason is that the concentrated protein and lower fiber content found in legumes speed up animal digestion, leading to greater intake and consequently faster weight gain.

When adding legumes, timing is important. The key is planting and establishing them early in the spring, when brome grass and other cool-season grasses are growing more quickly. While adding legumes is a concept that's been around for a while, its popularity depends on the price of fertilizer and livestock.

Future research will indicate whether different grazing strategies that involve two, six or 36 pasture rotations will affect legume longevity.
"We hope legumes will increase rates of gain per animal and per acre while lowering long-term costs of production by reducing the need for commercial nitrogen fertilizer," Mr. Anderson says.

Establishing legumes in pastures costs $15 to $60 per acre, which includes drilling or broadcasting the seed, controlling existing grass while legumes are getting established and purchasing the seed that ranges from $5 to $25 per acre, depending on the type and rate planted. Additional costs could include phosphorous for thrifty legume growth and lime to maintain soil pH levels at 7.0.