Beef School, Ep 13: Rejuvenating pastures with non-bloat legumes


Imagine rejuvenating a tired pasture (without the need to break it up and start from scratch), while simultaneously reducing the risk of bloat in future grazings.

Recent studies conducted on the Prairies have shown that including sainfoin in an alfalfa stand at just 20-30 per cent can significantly decrease or even eliminate the risk of bloat. So what if that sainfoin, or another non-bloating legume, was seeded directly into an old stand?

In this episode of the Beef School, University of Saskatchewan PhD candidate Breanna Kelln shares research from the Western Beef Development Centre looking at just that.

The research started in 2015, with sod-seeding two species of non-bloat legumes – sainfoin and cicer milkvetch – into an old meadow brome/alfalfa pasture.

Over the following three years, the 15 five-acre paddocks were grazed by steers, with information gathered to ultimately analyze animal performance, soil health, plant productivity, forage quality, rumen fermentation, and methane production.

  • Forage Quality – The rejuvenated pastures showed a 2 per cent increase in crude protein on a dry matter basis.
  • Forage Yield – Rejuvenated pastures saw a marginal increase.
  • Animal Performance – The improvements in forage quality and yield led to a 20 per cent increase in weight gain.
  • Species Persistence – Cicer milkvetch maintained its level over the three years, while the sainfoin variety in the trial dropped off a little over the three years (likely impacted, says Kelln, by the drought in those years).
  • Methane Production – Methane production decreased over the years, Kelln says, which is a benefit for both the producer (less energy loss), and the environment as well.
  • Economics – Kelln says the cost-benefit of rejuvenation worked out to be about $20/ac back to the producer.

“Overall, the findings from the study show that rejuvenating and using non-bloat legumes in a rejuvenation strategy for some of those old and tired pasture stands can lead to a bump in yield, bump in forage growth, better quality, and of course that’s all going to impact that producer’s bottom line…”

See more Beef School episodes here!

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