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Topics : Pastures : Strategies for Extending the Grazing Season

Strategies for Extending the Grazing Season

Additional pasture information via the Forage Information System (FIS)


Stockpiling Birdsfoot Trefoil

Birdsfoot trefoil is a perennial legume adapted to production on poorly drained, low pH soils. It can reseed itself, is resistant to Phytophthora root rot and numerous alfalfa insects, responds well to fertilization, and does not cause bloat in animals. These characteristics have expanded its use in the northern United States and southern Canada where the production of other forage legumes is limited. Birdsfoot trefoil is well suited for stockpiling since it holds its leaves at maturity and after frost, thus maintaining a relatively high level of quality.

Adapted Varieties

About 25 varieties of birdsfoot trefoil are available in the United States and Canada. Birdsfoot trefoil varieties are generally characterized by growth habit into two types, Empire and European. Both types are referred to as "broadleaf" trefoils.

Empire-type birdsfoot trefoils are better adapted for grazing situations than the European types because they have fine stems, prostrate growth, and indeterminate growth habit. The Empire types grow slower during establishment and regrow more slowly following harvest than the European types. `Dawn' and `Empire' are high- yielding, Empire-type varieties that have performed well in Pennsylvania tests.

European-type birdsfoot trefoils are better adapted to hay production because they are more erect, establish faster, and regrow faster after harvest than the Empire type.

Grazing Management

To stockpile birdsfoot trefoil, avoid grazing between September 1 and the first killing frost. This period is needed to accumulate root reserves that improve winter survival and growth the following spring. The forage that accumulates during the stockpiling period can be grazed anytime after a killing frost.

Refer to Birdsfoot Trefoil for more information about production and management of this forage species.