Crimson Clover, over and over

At the end of September I seeded the Colorado paddock to annual ryegrass and crimson clover. It was an experiment to see what we could get for winter growth. Both plants are supposed to grow over winter, and with the warm periods we get here we could get enough growth to increase our winter grazing.

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The biggest impediment to fall growth here is, of course, rain. Our two summers on the farm have both been very dry, so we haven’t had much fall growth despite the ideal temperatures.

The field itself is an old hayfield that was in lucerne for likely 7 or 8 years. There was some good organic matter there but the lucerne was mostly gone and the wild grasses were sparse and mossy. Two years of direct grazing have improved things somewhat with richer growth and less moss, but we wanted to get rid of the lucerne to give the paddock a break for a couple of years. That way we could reseed it to lucerne again if we needed to.

We could have seeded a cereal in there, but we wanted to try ryegrass since the neighbors seem to use it a lot and anything that increases our grazing time makes us happier.

The ryegrass gave us scattered growth over fall. It was clear that the fertility in the paddock was not well distributed. Despite a couple of discing passes you could still see areas of better growth from the ghosts of old hay rollouts and cowpats.

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Now it is mid January the crimson clover has showed up. The areas with less ryegrass are now getting covered in clover. It is short, often too short to graze, but I’ve never grown this before so it’s all learning for me.

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The two photos above show the clover growing well where the grass is weak. A few weeks ago these were patches showing a lot of dirt.

Overall the paddock has grown well over the winter. The herd has been grazing it for the last two weeks. The beef seems happy.

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The neighbors would not be grazing this but would turn it into silage in springtime where it would produce huge amounts of food for their housed cows.

It is too early to tell if this is a worthwhile thing to do regularly, but I think there could be a role somewhere for ryegrass over winter. I’m not sure if a full disc and reseed is the way to do it. Maybe a quick scrape of a pasture and an overseed/roll? We’ll know more when we see how it regrows in spring.

7 thoughts on “Crimson Clover, over and over

  1. katedecamont says:

    I remember seeing some fields of red clover when I first came to the Garonne Valley; when left to flower, they were spectacularly beautiful and a boone to the bees as well. Enjoying learning along with you!

  2. Gordon Milligan says:

    Good post Brent, your fields are looking good. I was a little disappointed that you didn’t have a music video at the end of your post like “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and The Shondells 🙂

  3. Susan Lea says:

    Great post title! As soon as I saw it I could hear the song in my head! We tried hand-broadcasting rye grass two winters ago, but it did nothing. I really want to try frost-seeding some clover; maybe next year since I was sick for too many weeks this fall & poor Herb had to do everything as it was. We’re seeing it appear a little on its own so it would be nice to give it some help. Your paddock is looking really good. So great that you’re getting some winter grazing! Keep experimenting & I’ll keep learning things!

  4. mimiswardrobe says:

    I’m posting on my iPad & WordPress will only let me use my WP ID. I appreciate being able to learn from your experiments! Glad you’re getting some winter grazing; it looks good.

  5. grasspunk says:

    Hello Kate, I don’t think I’ve seen crimson clover in flower here. We get a lot of red clover growing wild in our pastures, but I hope we can get the crimson stuff going to flower this spring.

  6. grasspunk says:

    Gordon, thanks. I’m a little reluctant to post anything with too much text. I sang the song the whole time I was writing, if that excuses anything.

  7. grasspunk says:

    Susan Lea, we’ve been grazing without hay for the last month, although we’ll start slowing the herd down with hay again in another few days. There’s just about enough food out there to go chasing grass around the farm, but it would retard a lot of spring growth and we figure it is better to feed 2-4 weeks of hay and give the other paddocks time to get ahead.

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