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.
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.
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.
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.
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.