Greenmanure/cover crop & grazing : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

I was just looking at another site that sells seeds. Under cover crops they had this list: alfalfa, alsike clover, austrian winter pea, barley, buckwheat, canola (aka rape), field peas, hairy vetch, oats, red clover, rye (both spring & winter), wheat (both spring & winter), sudangrass, white dutch clover, & yellow sweet clover.

If planted in fall for a cover crop, can any of these be grazed in winter when the grass is gone, & still have enough left come spring (or more growth in spring) to plow under? (With the exception of the grains, I would probibly mix the seeds so as to not have strait clover when grazed.) Is there any other greenmanure/cover crop I need to know about that can be winter grazed? Damage to the plant do to grazing in winter doesn't matter since it gets plowed under. Are there any drawbacks to any of these plants? Should I avoid any for grazing? Should I only graze for a short time? If so, how long? (I wanted to use it as a winter supplement for a few cow/calfs, sheep, or a couple pigs.)

Thanks for any advice;


-- animalfarms (In) (, May 18, 2000


Animalfarms, a true cover crop doesn't have a whole lot of growth on it going into winter. You're mostly after a fine web of roots near the surface of the soil to help hold it, plus a small amount of shading in certain climates to help reduce evaporation. You'd need to plant fairly early to make sure there's some good growth for grazing. What exactly are you planting? Empty row crop land? Depending on the crop, it might not be out in time to get a good start on a cover crop that will also be able to provide graze. If this is a garden, you'll again have the problem of getting the vegetables out in time to seed, but you could partially offset that by taking out each crop in its time and immediately seeding your cover crop. The uneven growth wouldn't be a problem.

I find white dutch clover to be a terribly slow crop and I wouldn't use it, but your conditions are different. I don't think the rape will be too much of a problem for sun burning pigs. Gerbil

-- Gerbil (, May 18, 2000.

My husband seeds white clover in the garden right around the vegetables. It's slow growth isn't a problem in this case, because it won't swamp the veggies, helps keep the weeds down, and after the veggies come out, is still there to keep the soil in place. It also tills in well. As far as the usefulness of these crops for grazing, contact the county extension agent for some more info. Just glancing over the list, I would say most of them are safe under most circumstances, but you will need to know what happens when the plants have been frozen -- there is something that isn't good for stock feed after it has been frozen, but off the top of my head I can't remember what it is. In the Willamette Valley I've seen sheep in fields of root crops (turnips, I think) for their winter feed -- they ate the tops, then started on the roots, which were partly above ground. They managed to eat even the underground parts, though. Of course, that is a pretty mild climate, compared to some places; turnips might only be good in the fall in a colder climate.

-- Kathleen Sanderson (, May 19, 2000.

Kathleen, when your husband seeds the white dutch clover, does he use a special technique? I've tried doing that and had a very poor stand to show for it. I just scattered the seed around. Should I be doing something else? Also, where do you get your seed from? I have a fairly large garden and need to find a reasonably priced source for clover seed. Thanks for your help.

-- sandy (, May 19, 2000.

I've heard kale spoken highly of as a winter forage crop, but I just don't know how it would fit your climate. Don't know your climate, in fact.

-- Don Armstrong (, May 19, 2000.

Sandy, because white dutch clover is so slow, you should ideally seed it the same way you'd seed a new lawn-check your library for books with advice for your area. We just scatter it in bare spots and where the grass is a bit spotty. Then we don't go back and look for it for a year or two. Once started it will slowly but surely, but slowly, (did I meantion slowly?)spread. I think you can use bean innoculant on it or get a special one for clover. That will help, some. Gerbil

-- Gerbil (, May 19, 2000.

Sandy, check Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.

They have about 8 pages in their catalog of different cover crops and the prices are reasonable (I think). They also list a short paragraph about each one that lists it strengths and intended uses. If it is good for forage crop it usually says so.

-- vaughn (, May 19, 2000.

from what i've seen of cover crops, they are planted in the fall. they just start growing before winter, are at a standstill during the winter, and then go wild come spring. i live in pennsylvania, and the farmer that planted winter wheat on our property last fall had these results. right now it is about 2 feet high. i really don't think you could graze livestock on it over the winter though. you probably could in the spring since even if everything got ate, you would still have the manure to plow under.

-- michael w. smith (, May 21, 2000.

I am turning into the catalog lady, but Premier has a great fencing catalog and they also sell seed. Even if you don't use their seed, they have great information and are very knowledgeable folks! We overseeded with their Stock Master blend (per.ryegrass, endophyte- free tall fescue, bromegrass, orchardgrass, chicory, festolium, white clover and crab grass) 25 pounds per acre, we just did 2 acres and where very pleased, we will be ordering our rye grass from them for this years winter grass, and we will be using their puna chickory again for next year on a much broader scale. The goats love it! Definetly worth the phone call. 800-282- 6631

-- Vicki McGaugh (, May 21, 2000.

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