Overseeding Pastures


   One of the best ways to introduce legumes into your fescue pastures or hay fields is to broadcast or no-till the legumes about this time of year. For years I’ve had folks tell me that instead of doing those methods the easiest way to overseed is to mix the legume seed into a grain or mineral mix, feed it to the cattle and have the legume seed spread by the animal.
   I’ve never felt that was very effective but again I didn’t have research numbers to show it was a bad idea. However, thanks to a North Carolina State study they proved you will waste a lot of seed and still not get a good legume stand by feeding the seed.
   The seed-feeding method has several problems that result in reduced seed viability. Contact with loose mineral, passage through the ruminant digestive system and competition with the manure are the biggest problems the seed faces.
   The study showed the average viability of the fed seeds ranged from 0 to 14 percent. The manure pile itself created a bad situation for the red clover seedlings. It did help some to drag the pastures. In a comparison with conventional frost-seeding they had about 20 red clover seedlings per square foot while the fed pasture only had 1 seedling per square foot. ∆

ELDON COLE: Extension Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri
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