All About Overseeding

Pasture planning is a 360-day project. What you plan to do next spring needs to be thought of now. How are you going to pay for practices like over seeding? Are there any programs through the USDA or FSA that might allow you to cost-share some of the forage management techniques?
One commonly utilized practice is over seeding to improve forage quality. Think about what over seeding entails now to plan your 2011 forage improvement budget.
Over seeding is a common practice used by producers as an easy and inexpensive way to plant seed in established sod in many pasture and hay fields. "It is a simple process to perform – all you need is some type of spreader to broadcast the seed and I would recommend some type of drag, something just to scratch the ground a bit while seeding," explained Lance Kirkpatrick, University of Arkansas county extension agent.
Drags would be used to avoid the problems encountered when utilizing planting drills. Although producers need to make sure the broadcaster seeder is properly calibrated, this task is normally easier done than with a no-till drill.
"The main problem I see with using planting drills is seeding rate and planting depth required for legumes. Even with new machines often times they are not precise enough to deliver the proper seeding rates of small legumes. Planting depth is often a problem as well; most clover seeds are small seeds and thus require a planting depth of about one-quarter inch or less. Planting seeds an inch or more will normally result in a poor stand of clover," Kirkpatrick explained.

What are the immediate and long term benefits?
"Immediate benefits of overseeding would be increase in forage quality and quantity if you get good results from planting. As for long term benefits one of the major ones would have to be clover's ability to fix nitrogen (N) which can be used by surrounding plants. Under ideal conditions clovers can add up to 200 lbs. actual N/acre/year to the soil. Clovers also complement many types of forage that grow in our area and help improve crude protein and digestibility when incorporate in pasture and hay fields," Kirkpatrick said.
Producers have tried many types of clover but I think the staple is white clover, sometimes it is referred to as ladino clover but it is important to remember they are they same species. Landino is normally a taller plant and is often used for hay production, Kirkpatrick said. White clover in most cases will easily reseed itself and can handle low rates of 2,4-D.
Anyone interested in improving forage quality on the stump or in the bale could benefit from over seeding legumes in their pastures. "I think producers need to be doing everything they can to extend grazing and lower the days they feed hay. Clovers are more difficult to manage in a hay field but I think that you could benefit from clovers in hay production. The most common place for legumes are in pasture land utilized for grazing," Kirkpatrick said.
Legumes are higher in crude protein and digestibility than most grasses commonly seen in pastures around our region. Since diets are usually higher in quality with a grass/legume mix animal performance often improves even if total forage yield doesn’t increase
As to how often over seeding should be repeated, it depends on variety and type of clover you have planted, Kirkpatrick noted. "Annual winter clovers such as Arrow leaf and Ball clovers have a high reseeding ability and provided you get a good stand you may never need to over seed again, others such as red or crimson clovers will most likely need to be reseeded each year due to low reseeding ability. Other factors determining how often you will need to over seed include weather, grazing pressure, soil fertility and weed management programs. White clover is more of a perennial clover and for this reason will usually provide a more persistent and long term stand than other clovers," he concluded.
In Planning Over Seeding: 
•    Check soil fertility – Clovers do not thrive well in acidic soils (soils with pH >6).
•    Avoid nitrogen applications –  Although clovers can create nitrogen they will use other nitrogen sources if they are available.
•    Adjust weed management programs – After you plant your clover, many products such as Grazon and 2,4-D will damage if not kill a good stand of clover.
•    Problems with fescue, consider planting clovers – Although clover does not eliminate production issues related to fescue, it does work to reduce the problems with toxic fescue by diluting the amount of fescue consumed with clover.
•    Be cautious about bloat – Make sure that if you're going to move hungry cattle into a field you fill them up with hay first. Bloating usually only occurs when you have stands of clover over 50 percent in a particular field.

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