Mixing alfalfa and sainfoin for a pasture stand has potential, as research scientists pointed out last week at the Western Canadian Grazing Conference in Edmonton.
Sainfoin is a perennial forage legume. It was introduced to North America from Europe and Asia in the late 1800s and has since been used for both grazing and hay. Perhaps most adored for its non-bloating characteristics, sainfoin is relatively drought, cold and alkaline tolerant. It typically flowers two weeks prior to alfalfa, but still manages to retain its leaves further into autumn.
Alfalfa, on the other hand, can cause severe pasture bloat in cattle, causing many managers to avoid grazing it at all. Others mitigate the risk by grazing after the plant has reached 20% bloom, moving cattle in the late afternoons, avoiding grazing during rapid growth or providing bloat prevention liquids or boluses.
Research in Alberta and Saskatchewan has shown that having 20-30% sainfoin in a pasture stand will reduce or eliminate bloat occurrences. The bloat prevention comes from condensed tannins, which are also responsible for antimicrobial activity and improved nitrogen digestion.
We caught up with Alan Iwaasa, research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, to talk about the benefits of alfalfa/sainfoin mixtures, how to increase the longevity of a sainfoin-inclusive pasture stand and where research is going for 2015. That interview, below: