Adding legumes to cool-season pastures is the best way to increase forage quality and animal performance. Legumes increase protein, forage digestibility and intake when added to a grass pasture. As a bonus, legumes make their own nitrogen which reduces fertilizer costs.

The biggest challenge to establishing legumes into an existing grass pasture is competition by the grass on new, slow growing seedlings. Anything you do to reduce competition and slow down grass growth will help. One of the best ways to slow down spring grass growth is to graze it hard now. Heavy grazing this fall prior to frost seeding this winter or no-till seeding next spring will weaken the existing grass, reduce its spring growth and remove much of the old dead thatch. This will give the new legume seedlings a better chance to get started.

While you're at it, also collect some soil samples. Then analyze them and apply any needed fertilizer. Legumes often need extra phosphorus and sometimes lime to improve soil pH.

Source: Marvin Hall, Penn State Forage Specialist