Summer here is hot and dry and there are not many plants that grow in those conditions. Lucerne was the legume that kept growing throughout the summer providing fresh fodder for our herd. There were also some grasses that did well relative to the rest, notably the chiendent (couch grass) and yellow foxtail. Each of these has since died down as the cooler-season grasses take over.
In late October it started raining again and with the moderate temperatures we saw growth from other plants. It is spring all over again! The first things to start growing again were the legumes. There are a few I haven’t identified, but there’s certainly been a lot of growth of clover.
In the middle of the lucerne hay fields we are getting other species growing through. Anywhere where there is a thin patch we’re seeing grasses and clover push, as well as plantain and the occasional dandelion. This is a good thing as we are fencing these hay fields and grazing them next year. We can do with some diversity of plant species.
Gene Logsdon describes that on his farm, if he just mows periodically he’ll get a pasture of kentucky bluegrass and white clover. One grass dominates, and one legume works with it to provide the nitrogen. I’ve been wondering what grasses and legumes would dominate on our farm’s natural pastures.
This is the first year the grasses have been grazed tall with the litter left behind. This is also the first year there’s been adequate rest for the plants after grazing. The standard usage of pasture here is to hay everything in spring then to chase grass the rest of the year. Any significant grass growth is grazed down bare.
A rotational system like ours should favor taller grasses, like fescue and dactyle (orchardgrass/cocksfoot – apologies for my inconsistency in usage, our farming vocabulary is now a mix of French, English and American terms). Here is a photo of Sleepy Hollow about a week after it was grazed. The taller grasses are starting to grow up over the shorter ones. I’m thinking that over a few years the percentage of these taller grasses will climb to dominate the pasture.
And then there are the unexpected findings. I presumed that clover would dominate the legumes, but white clover isn’t tall and suffers with taller grasses. Maybe something else will fill the Nitrogen need? I see sainfoin in the field and also a lot of lotier (Birdsfoot Trefoil). I wouldn’t mind seeing more lotier in the fields since it has no risk of bloat. It is called Birdsfoot Trefoil because the seed pods are shaped like a bird’s foot. We just call it lotier because it is easier to say.
As fall progresses things keep changing. Right now many fields are shooting up with a fine-looking ryegrass. I don’t know enough to identify it, but it looks soft and sweet for the cows.