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irrigated pasture planting suggestions?

 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Hi all,

We are going to overseed our ~4 acre pasture this year, and i was hoping i could get some suggestions on what to seed.
here is a link to a previous thread that shows the pasture. http://www.permies.com/t/24538/earthworks/Earthworks-flood-irrigation


it was originally planted in 2011 with an irrigated pasture mix (see info here), but the drought killed all but the alfalfa.
The pasture feeds (supplements?) our jersey/brown swiss cow (and her baby) as well as sees layer chicken activity.

info on the site:
~5300 ft elevation
slopes north to south
zone 5b
soil is compacted clay with very little organic matter
2-3 flood irrigations per year. sometimes more, usually less dependent on snowpack.

mainly looking for deep rooted plants (dandelions?), n fixers (clovers?) and ground covers (?). all must be edible by cows.
would like both hot and cold season grasses.

things that grow on the site - kochia weed, tumbleweeds, some horehound and geraniums.

here is a site that sells bulk seeds http://www.sharpseed.com/seeds.php but i am open to other sites to order from.

any and all suggestions are appreciated.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Don't forget chicory. It's got a nice deep root to reach water and it's doing fine on my compacted clay.
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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Forage radish & turnip are great biological ways of chisel plowing/ keyline which you might consider. I planted it last year and probably let the livestock in too early and they ate it all so it didn't really accomplish all that much for me.

Consider reading Growing Poplar and Willow Trees on Farms. It's common practice in NZ to plant poplar & willow for forage.

I planted some willow last year along my fence lines, thinking that the cattle will keep it pollarded. Now, I'm thinking about making browse blocks in my "pasture" which has very thin soil and more conducive to growing trees than grasses anyway.


I imagine those trees would grow quicker if they were planted in swales.

Some 20-year-old willows have been pollarded at least six times in their lives, and the farmers say that many cattle and sheep have appreciated them meantime as forage and shade. A mature tree with about five year’s regrowth can feed up to 30 cows for a day. When fed along with hay, one large tree can feed about 60 cows. In a recent study in Hawke’s Bay, regrowth from a willow tree pollarded (complete canopy removal) five years earlier was 29.3 kg dry matter, of which about 30 percent comprised edible foliage (leaf and stem less than 5 mm diameter).


Pruning in late summer, especially in drier regions, enables a farmer to use the trimmings as drought fodder, and its feed value can be similar to that of lucerne hay provided that poplar rust hasn’t developed. Removing side limbs also allows more light into the pasture understorey during summer when the leaf canopy is most dense. Furthermore stock will consume much of the younger bark from the pruned branches.
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 699
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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Thanks for the suggestions.

So far I have:
dandelions
chicory (which variety?)
clover (which variety?)
forage radish and turnip

I would like to get more grasses seeded in also.
Any suggestion on cool or warm season grasses? Or should i just go with one of the premixed versions for now??

I do plan to plant some forage trees once i can get some swales dug, but that wont be until later this year.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Do you milk the cows? I ask because turnip and radish can flavor the milk in a, ahem, not good way. But if you don't, they make great forage and a late crop can be a stored tuber they will root out after the frost.

I can't suggest grasses for your area.

For clover, I like good old red (big leaves and large mass for forage). And the cheapest of the seed, usually. I do want to mix in a little of yellow and white and alfalfa, just for diversity.

Don't forget plantain.
 
Adam Klaus
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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Red clover. The champion of good cow pastures.

Also broadleaf plantain and forage chicory, two excellent pasture plants that create excellent forage while improving soil.

For grasses, I would plant some orchardgrass for early and late season grazing.

In general, less grass is more in a truly excellent pasture. A lot of grasses, like Timothy, aren't worth the real estate they take up that could be growing plantain, from a nutritional standpoint.

Good luck!
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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R Scott wrote:Do you milk the cows? I ask because turnip and radish can flavor the milk in a, ahem, not good way. But if you don't, they make great forage and a late crop can be a stored tuber they will root out after the frost.


Ah, my cows are just for beef. But that does remind me... you're supposed to leave the roots in the field and let them decompose over winter, opening up the soil. I have heard that there can be odor issues with that process.
 
John Elliott
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Kelly Smith wrote:
chicory (which variety?)



Here is an Ag bulletin on forage chicories. I don't have a large pasture, so I just use European edible varieties like radicchio and witloof. The squirrels in my neighborhood seem to be partial to the Italian frastagliate chicory. I wish they would leave it alone long enough for me to get some to put in the skillet. Maybe I should put the squirrels AND the chicory in the fry pan. Hmmmmm.
 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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wow, as we are pricing out seed, i am surprised how much more expensive seed is from ~3 years ago.

previously, we planted an irrigated pasture mix and overseeded alfalfa. total cost for the seed was ~$380.
this year for a dryland pasture mix, and some sainfoin we are looking at ~$660.....

that doesnt include any of the clover, chiory (we got 2 varieties) or dandelion.


also, a lot of the chicory that i was seeing was related to deer plantings, so anyone looking for bulk chicory may want to search that also.
dandelion is also have to find in bulk. we ended up getting it by the oz from baker seeds.

we werent able to find bulk broadleaved plantain, so we didnt buy any. the largest packet was only 150 seeds...

more updates later, whether you want them or not
 
Kelly Smith
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Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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last year we seeded in chicory, dandelion, red clover, sainfoin, ryegrass, wheatgrass, brome and orchardgrass

here is what we found coming up this year:


left to right:
narrow leaf plantain, grass, alfalfa, chicory, dandelion and clover.


 
Thekla McDaniels
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Great thread going here.

here are a couple of good seed sites

http://greatbasinseeds.com/
I've bought from them, they're in Utah, and specialize in species for alkaline soils. One of my favorites, salad burnet, or small burnet, they say grows better in loose soil than in clay but it might be worth a try. I grew it in adobe soil in one of my other gardens.

And these guys, green cover seed, I've never bought from, but they were in a Soil Conference in Delta this winter, and they were giving away some seed samples and I learned a little about their company. I think it's owned by 2 brothers. They have a free online calculator for figuring out your mix. They were giving away seed samples of a forage beet which I thought was a great idea. I have no idea if the sample seeds have germinated... but here they are:
https://greencoverseed.com/

About the forage beet, I was thinking it would be like a forage or tillage radish, with a longer life, and without the stink.

I have a fair amount of kochia scoparia, and the goats eat it like crazy. Sometimes I think I'm nuts to be trying to replace such a prolific feed source with perennials, but I think in the end I'll be happy I did. The great basin seed company sells a perennial forage kochia. Now that's scary! They have photos of it growing. It is a small shrub. The thing that makes me think it might be good for you is because of how hard a time you have with reliable water. They use the forage kochia to rehab rangeland after fire without irrigation of any kind. It is a good winter forage (high protein) and is not invasive, but it out competes cheat grass and the other weedy annual grasses. Lots more ideas on the great basin site.

I have an annual, Rocky Mountain Bee Plant, that grows 5 feet high and is covered in mauve flowers. I think the goats eat it, the bees are all over it, and it is eaten by people as a pot herb. Cleome serrulata. It's tough to get it going because the seed needs to overwinter on the ground. It's not just the chilling it requires but the oscillation of temperatures provided by winter on the ground. But once you have it, it reseeds generously if you allow it. I've eaten it. it isn't my favorite but in a pinch, it'll feed you, so I figure it will feed the animals too.

I also like amaranth, a good tall one with big leaves that reseeds and is beautiful is "Opopeo". Amaranth germinates in warm soil, and is not fussy about water or soil. If it gets plenty of water you get a bigger plant. Goats eat it but I don't know about cows. You might not want it in your hay, I don't know about that part of things. But I eat it as a leafy green. And many eat the seeds as a grain.

And while we are on tall and pretty perennials to put in your pasture, hollyhocks are a generous plant. Big leaves in the early spring, then a flowering stalk if they get a chance. The goats eat it.

Another drought tolerant perennial is dock, yellow and curly grow at my place. The goats love them and cows, I don't know. They have an underground storage root so they can survive a dry spell.

I'll keep my eyes open to see what has done well in the dryer parts of my field, to see if anything else looks like a good one for you. You already have a lot of the things I'm introducing.

 
Thekla McDaniels
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Another seed source:

http://www.applewoodseed.com/

Applewood seed company Their top billing is flowers, but they have natives too. Native grasses from tall and short grass prairie. Bird and butterfly mixture, bees mixes, forage and honey, native pollinators, and such. I have chicory getting established, a great forage crop from the past, now not much utilized.

Now about "salsify" here is a link to a New York Times article on it. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home-garden/salsify-a-root-vegetable-that-does-double-duty/2011/12/20/gIQAxL6GaP_story.html

The goats eat it when ever they get a chance, especially the flower, after it closes up and the seeds are forming, and people eat the roots, said to taste like artichoke hearts, and I think the article says people eat the greens too. I've just googled salsify plant images, and there is a good array of photos of the plant in all stages.

I did not buy the seed, I watched for seed heads driving down Plateau Creek canyon (maybe that's what it's called) on the way home from a friend's house, and gathered thousands of seeds. They germinated readily, and now I have lots of it.

I have not eaten it yet, but I like knowing I have these things which really would feed me, if I went to the trouble of digging them up.

Did I already mention evening primrose? I know there are a lot of plants that go by this name. What I have grows 4-5 feet tall, is a biennial or short lived perennial. It is kind of a ragged looking plant, begins to flower right after the equinox.

The flowers open right at dusk, pop open before your eyes and moths are right on them to pollinate. A great plant to have around because of the awe inspired by wathcing a flower open.

I can try to remember to photograph it later this year. It is now prolific on my place, after introduction about 7 years ago from a plant I brought with me and a grocery sack of seed pods from my friend's garden. This is why I would have to give you seeds to be sure you end up with the "right" one.

What would be really cool is to get a movie of them opening, but I would have to learn new skills to be able to do that.

I include a leaf or two in any chopped greens or green smoothie I make. Again the root is said to be edible, though I have not tried it. The seeds are tiny, but probably have the evening primrose oil in them.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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