The cold mornings in February provide an opportunity to frost-seed pastures with clover for more productive forages this spring.
Besides fixing 40 to 120 pounds of nitrogen for the year, these legumes boost livestock performance by improving the palatability of forages, which leads to an increase in the quantity and quality of forage consumed.
In beef cattle, pastures with clover produce significantly more pounds of beef per acre than those without, and the same translates to milk yields in grazing dairy herds.
There are multiple varieties of red or white clover to choose from for perennial pastures.
Red clover is one of the fastest establishing legumes, tolerates more acidic soil and can be similar to alfalfa in quality and yield when on the same harvest schedule.
Red clover may be less winter hardy than other clovers and is generally best for grazing or silage, but improved varieties such as Freedom!MR red clover can be used for dry hay and has better winter hardiness.
White clovers can be subdivided into three categories — short, intermediate and large, or ladino.
Short white clover is less productive than other clovers and not commonly seeded into pastures.
Intermediate white clover spreads prolifically by stolons while being tolerant to traffic and grazing.
It is a high-quality forage that will not lignify in hot weather like alfalfa, red clover or grasses. It also tends to be more persistent than red clover.
However, it is a shorter clover that may be lower yielding than red or ladino clovers. Varieties such as Alsike are suitable for cool, moist, acidic soils, while Alice produces vigorous spring and summer growth.
Large white clovers, commonly referred to as ladino, are the largest of the white clovers, growing two to four times the size of common white clovers.
Their strength lies in their aggressive growth that outcompetes weeds, and they have larger leaves and higher yields than intermediate white clovers. However, they are less tolerant of grazing and traffic than intermediate white clovers.
Each has its positives and negatives. Choose the one that works the best for your goals or take a look at a premium clover mix.