Summertime and the lucerne is eaten

Once July hits the Gers nothing much grows. The permanent pastures go yellow and brown and after the stockpile is eaten there’s nothing left. Farmers feed hay and silage to their animals through the summer.

The one exceptional plant is lucerne (or alfalfa to Americans). It keeps growing. Even in drought conditions it grows, although it won’t get as tall or deliver as much nourishment.

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Our plan is to have enough lucerne growing to not need to feed hay in the summer. It worked out last year, and with this year’s larger herd we’ve added a couple of new paddocks to the rotation. So far we’ve fed no hay, although the lack of rain means the pastures aren’t growing yet so hay may be on the menu in a few weeks.

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There’s nothing wrong with feeding hay except cost. We chose to seed a lucerne/orchard grass mix and graze that for five summers rather than making and distributing that amount of hay. It is also excellent pasture for finishing animals. Plus the lucerne gives Nitrogen to the soil and the deep roots of the lucerne plant help develop a good soil structure.

8 responses to “Summertime and the lucerne is eaten

  1. I might do the lacerne/orchard mix up on my building site where I put in the pole barn, to use if i need a little emergency pasture. Brent.. you have seen my building site with the tall weeds, I need to get some kind of grass growing up there to crowed the weeds out. Do you think I can get by just mowing the weeds and putting down grass seed or do you think I have to plow it all up and start over. I know its better to plow and start over but I don’t have a plow yet.

  2. And how much better to let the animals do the work of harvesting the lucerne directly into their stomachs–rather than you doing it with the tractor!

  3. Sorry, you probably don’t know who that is up there! I guess it signs me in that way since you’re on WordPress, too. Let’s try again.

  4. Gordon, I wouldn’t plow, that seems a little like overkill, but lots of folks would. You can mow and seed. If you have discs or a harrow to scrape the surface that helps with the seed contact and you can roll after seeding if you have a cultipacker. Or you can use cows to tread it in. There are folk that know a lot more than me. I did a quick search on ‘overseeding’ and found a lot of stuff.

    I have overseeded clover by hand, just wandering through the sparse areas of pasture throwing seed. It takes a while to come in.

  5. Thanks Brent, thats what I will do. I will just keep adding seed every spring and fall and keep the mowing up, eventually the weeds will be thined out. I do have access to a harrow so I will drag that after I mow and then apply the seed.

  6. It looks like we’re going to have to plant a few cornfields in an alfalfa-grass mix this coming spring. Still have time to look more closely at species and seeding rates.
    What seeding rate did you use for your lucerne and orchard grass?

    And another trick I’ve heard good things about is mixing a bit of legume seed in with your cow’s mineral. The cow takes care of the scarification, seeding and fertilizing. Went on a pasture walk on a farm this spring that had a bunch of birdsfoot trefoil sprouting up that way.

  7. Pingback: School’s In After Summer « Brat Like Me·

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