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What is your opinion on trying to broadcast alfalfa into established grass?

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Faster horses

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We would like to sweeten up an existing grass hay field without plowing it up. We have used a rangeland drill in the past, but there isn't one to rent in this area. So, we wondered if anyone has tried broadcasting alfalfa into the grass hay. If so, do you have any tips that might help? We are of the generation that this wasn't acceptable, you had to plow it up and start over. This field is irrigated with a side roll sprinkler if that helps. Should it be done in spring, or in fall? Thanks for your input.
 

Big Muddy rancher

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I suppose if you could harrow it in and get a few good watering's it might work. I would like to hit the grass with a shot of Round up and the broadcast the seed. Lessen the completion, The alfalfa that is there will come back, the extra seed you put down will have a better chance and the grass will come back anyways.
 

Mountain Cowgirl

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Well, it depends a lot on your soil. Broadcasting would work in sandy loam to some degree. In heavier clay soil it might be a waste of seed. A light shallow discing would be ideal or even a trip over it with a spring tooth harrow. If discing angle the disc straight so it would make light shallow grooves. Personally in a grass pasture overseeding I would suggest red clover. It seems to hold its own with grass whereas alfalfa gets choked out easier. I would suggest doing it now or at least before May. What size is the pasture? Red clover can actually out yield alfalfa with the same given conditions. In your area, I would definitely recommend red clover for a grass pasture mix. Red clover tolerates the shade of the grass and also does better in poorer soils.
 
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Faster horses

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Well, it depends a lot on your soil. Broadcasting would work in sandy loam to some degree. In heavier clay soil it might be a waste of seed. A light shallow discing would be ideal or even a trip over it with a spring tooth harrow. If discing angle the disc straight so it would make light shallow grooves. Personally in a grass pasture overseeding I would suggest red clover. It seems to hold its own with grass whereas alfalfa gets choked out easier. I would suggest doing it now or at least before May. What size is the pasture? Red clover can actually out yield alfalfa with the same given conditions. In your area, I would definitely recommend red clover for a grass pasture mix. Red clover tolerates the shade of the grass and also does better in poorer soils.
We would try it on an 8 acre field. We sell horse hay, so would red clover work for horse hay? Mr. FH is diligent to not have any dust in the hay. How many pounds per acre would you suggest? And yes, we have clay soil. Thanks!
 

Mountain Cowgirl

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We would try it on an 8 acre field. We sell horse hay, so would red clover work for horse hay? Mr. FH is diligent to not have any dust in the hay. How many pounds per acre would you suggest? And yes, we have clay soil. Thanks!
Red clover with a Timothy grass mix is prime horse hay. I would suggest 6 lbs of Red Clover and 3 lbs of Timothy grass seed per acre. With clay soil, it would be best to spring tooth harrow it. It doesn't take much of a seedbed, but just a 1/4 " can make a big difference. It would be worth the cost of having the grass pasture lightly prepared. For our grass pastures, My dad built an attachment on the spring tooth harrow that was a large broadcaster driven off the PTO. It did both operations in one. We did the prime irrigated 40 acres that way without too much a do. We had good success with this in our Colorado red clay pastures. We would fertilize later with triple 16. With your irrigation, you should be able to grow some nice clean hay. I know here a Red Clover Timothy grass mix baled hay brings top dollar from the small acre horse people. It is the most sought hay for horse people with money trees. You might run all this by your county agent. They would know specifics for your area.
 

leanin' H

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Ditto on asking your county extension agent. I’d also go the red or white clover route for overseeding the established grass. Alfalfa hates the competition and it won’t come in very well. Now that is advice from a guy who doesn’t have much water so take it with a grain of salt. But I’d contact your local agent or a Ag university up there.
 

Faster horses

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Red clover with a Timothy grass mix is prime horse hay. I would suggest 6 lbs of Red Clover and 3 lbs of Timothy grass seed per acre. With clay soil, it would be best to spring tooth harrow it. It doesn't take much of a seedbed, but just a 1/4 " can make a big difference. It would be worth the cost of having the grass pasture lightly prepared. For our grass pastures, My dad built an attachment on the spring tooth harrow that was a large broadcaster driven off the PTO. It did both operations in one. We did the prime irrigated 40 acres that way without too much a do. We had good success with this in our Colorado red clay pastures. We would fertilize later with triple 16. With your irrigation, you should be able to grow some nice clean hay. I know here a Red Clover Timothy grass mix baled hay brings top dollar from the small acre horse people. It is the most sought hay for horse people with money trees. You might run all this by your county agent. They would know specifics for your area.
We don't have a county extension agent here, I know, unbelievable. We do have a community college....we have some timothy growing now, I know it is a favorite of horse people because we had a lot of it in SW Montana for our horse hay people. I never could figure out why it was so favored, it's just basically a stem with a head and I don't think the nutrition in it is all that good. We have taken many grass samples, but of course we didn't grow timothy in SE Montana, It doesn't do well there, so it's been awhile since I've seen an analysis of Timothy mixed hay.

Thank you for your advice, for sure. and for how you worked your ground. I will show it to Mr. FH. Appreciate the help!
 

Faster horses

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Ditto on asking your county extension agent. I’d also go the red or white clover route for overseeding the established grass. Alfalfa hates the competition and it won’t come in very well. Now that is advice from a guy who doesn’t have much water so take it with a grain of salt. But I’d contact your local agent or a Ag university up there.
Yes, Mr. FH said the grass would choke it out, if it ever got started. We have noticed before, if we planted alfalfa/grass, soon the grass took over. We have nothing against good grass hay, in fact that's mostly what we have fed for years, but this field needs some help and we don't want to go the traditional working of the ground if we can help it.
Thanks, H for your input. Appreciate it.
 

Mountain Cowgirl

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@Faster horses I just checked with a neighbor that is a retired crop specialist. He says for your climate and pasture broadcasting get Crimson Clover. It produces better in cooler climates and would be good for heavier clay soil as long as it is well-drained. He says just broadcast at 15 lbs per acre. If you want amazing results, then try to harrow so you have 1/4" grooves, but you should get good results by just broadcasting on pasture as is and then lightly watering several times. Have the soil damp when you seed and then water very lightly.

The cost is a bit more but he says well worth it and his top recommendation. Don't mix with any grass seed. You would need 120 lbs and that would be three 50 lbs bags at $68 per pound so a bit over $200.
 

Faster horses

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@Faster horses I just checked with a neighbor that is a retired crop specialist. He says for your climate and pasture broadcasting get Crimson Clover. It produces better in cooler climates and would be good for heavier clay soil as long as it is well-drained. He says just broadcast at 15 lbs per acre. If you want amazing results, then try to harrow so you have 1/4" grooves, but you should get good results by just broadcasting on pasture as is and then lightly watering several times. Have the soil damp when you seed and then water very lightly.

The cost is a bit more but he says well worth it and his top recommendation. Don't mix with any grass seed. You would need 120 lbs and that would be three 50 lbs bags at $68 per pound so a bit over $200.
Thanks for your diligence. We really aren't 'cooler' here tho even though we are at the foot of the Big Horn mountains. We can and do get 100 degrees here. Not that we like it, we don't. I have copied and pasted this to show Mr. FH so he has it all. Thanks again!!
 

webfoot

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Before I retired I was a certified crop adviser (CCA) (for what ever that is worth. I studies animal nutrition in college not agronomy) Any way I know of nobody who was successful broadcasting alfalfa on a grass stand. Many the other way around. Have a well established stand of alfalfa that is weakening and broadcast grass into it. That works. Just broadcasting clover I prefer to do it in February. Frost seeding. Red clover is easy to establish but not really long lived. White clover is much better for grazing and less so for hay because of the manner in which it grows. If there is no extension try a local seed or fertilizer dealer and see if they have a CCA on staff. As with most things local knowledge is most likely better than that of people many miles away.
 

Spanish Johhny

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I tried something similar back in Ontario, but I used trefoil. It has a similar seed size / weight to alfalfa so it should work. I think it is key that in the fall you graze the grass right down to the wood. Great if you can see some dirt. Some guys would do a burndown with glyphosate but then I think you are sacrificing your grass.
I think I broadcast 10lbs / acre in early March. You can throw it on top of snow if you have to but I think bare FROZEN ground is best. Ideally, below freezing at night and above during the day which helps seed to soil contact and in turn germination. Do your best to time spreading so that the seed doesn't grow too much only to get smoked by a hard frost killing it. Lots of stars have to line up for this to work but it was my only option on low flood prone ground that you didn't dare work up. I got an amazing thick catch when I did it but I have been around the horn so I know the next time I try this the whole project could go sideways on me!
Good luck!
 

Haytrucker

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Ain't such a thing as watering lightly with a sideroll, unless someone has a different sprinkler package than I have seen.
 

Faster horses

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I tried something similar back in Ontario, but I used trefoil. It has a similar seed size / weight to alfalfa so it should work. I think it is key that in the fall you graze the grass right down to the wood. Great if you can see some dirt. Some guys would do a burndown with glyphosate but then I think you are sacrificing your grass.
I think I broadcast 10lbs / acre in early March. You can throw it on top of snow if you have to but I think bare FROZEN ground is best. Ideally, below freezing at night and above during the day which helps seed to soil contact and in turn germination. Do your best to time spreading so that the seed doesn't grow too much only to get smoked by a hard frost killing it. Lots of stars have to line up for this to work but it was my only option on low flood prone ground that you didn't dare work up. I got an amazing thick catch when I did it but I have been around the horn so I know the next time I try this the whole project could go sideways on me!
Good luck!
In SE Montana we had a field worked up for 5 years and had nothing but bad luck. Even planting winter wheat, which is supposed to be the safest of all, it sprouted in the head!! After that the field was real weedy. It was heavy clay in places, blow sand in other places. Neighbor said to plant alfalfa in it and use the weeds for a cover crop. We tried it, didn't work.
We would laugh about it, but we had to hire all this done so it got expensive. Let alone the cost of the alfalfa seed. YIKES! Bad memory. 😆

I did say we weren't farmers.....🤣
 

Evans

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In SE Montana we had a field worked up for 5 years and had nothing but bad luck. Even planting winter wheat, which is supposed to be the safest of all, it sprouted in the head!! After that the field was real weedy. It was heavy clay in places, blow sand in other places. Neighbor said to plant alfalfa in it and use the weeds for a cover crop. We tried it, didn't work.
We would laugh about it, but we had to hire all this done so it got expensive. Let alone the cost of the alfalfa seed. YIKES! Bad memory. 😆

I did say we weren't farmers.....🤣
Neighboring successful outfits are probably your best source of info.

On my place which is dry land in SW Alberta. Well it can be really hard to get anything established no matter what method you use if you never get a timely rain.
Its crazy what it can end up costing you per acre for a hay field. Takes years to get a $ return.
My big farmer neighboring outfits can basically grow barley without rain. But for someone like me trying to use plows,discs and box drills. I need rain!
I can hire big direct seed air seeders. I can get them but only after they do their own seeding first so by the time they come to do mine its to late in the spring.
Its hard to farm unless you have a lot of acres to justify equipment!
Broadcasting grass seed like crested wheat grass can work but I dont know about alfalfa.
 

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