Forage Seed Guide

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)

Description

Considered to be the world’s most valuable legume, alfalfa is commonly used for beef and dairy. Its high digestibility and feed value and ability to be stored make it ideal for hay and silage. Some varieties are also able to be used in a managed grazing system.

Strengths

High yields; good seedling vigor; deep roots; good summer growth; excellent drought tolerance; good persistence under mechanical harvesting; excellent forage quality and palatability.

Limitations

Requires deep, well-drained soils, high pH and high fertility; prone to alfalfa weevil and potato leafhopper damage; can cause bloat when grazed.

General

Longevity

perennial

Growth Habit

Bunch

Primary Growth Seasons

spring, summer, early fall

Plant Height (in cm)

40 to 90

Seeds (per lb)

200,000

Seedling Vigor

Good - Excellent

Climate and Soil Tolerances

Heat/Drought

Excellent

Cold

Good - Excellent

Wet Soil/Poor Drainage

Poor

Salinity

Fair

High pH Alkalinity

Fair

Low pH Acidity

Poor

Fertility Requirements

Optimum pH

6.6 - 7.2

Required Fertility Levels

Medium - High

Performance Potential

Feed Value/Quality

Very High

Palatability

Excellent

Digestibility

Excellent

Crude Protein

Very High

Tonnage (Yield)

High

Nitrogen fixation (lbs/a/year)

70 - 300

Use/Application

Continuous Grazing

Poor

Rotational Grazing

Good

Hay

Excellent

Silage

Excellent

Seeding Rates (HG/HA)

Pure Stand

13.4 to 16.8

Hay mixture (with legumes)

11.2

Hay mixture (with grasses)

-

Annual Ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum)

Description

Annual ryegrass will last between 1 to 2 years, depending on climate and variety, providing very high yields and high-quality forage. Varieties may be either diploid or tetraploid. Tetraploid varieties are usually higher in sugar content, whereas diploid varieties tend to be more tolerant of traffic and continuous grazing.

Strengths

High yields; easy to establish; cost effective; able to uptake excess nitrogen; compatible with many legumes; excellent palatability, digestibility, and feed value; useful for overseeding warm-season and cool-season pastures.

Limitations

Short term; can dominate other grasses that don’t grow as fast; performance is limited by water and nitrogen, due to shallow roots and rapid growth - highly demanding of nutrients; some varieties are susceptible to rusts and gray leaf spot.

General

Longevity

1 - 2 years

Growth Habit

Bunch

Primary Growth Seasons

spring, fall

Plant Height (in cm)

60 to 90

Seeds (per lb)

224,000

Seedling Vigor

Excellent

Climate and Soil Tolerances

Heat/Drought

Poor

Cold

Poor - Good

Wet Soil/Poor Drainage

Good

Salinity

Poor

High pH Alkalinity

Fair

Low pH Acidity

Good

Fertility Requirements

Optimum pH

6.0 - 7.0

Required Fertility Levels

Medium - High

Performance Potential

Feed Value/Quality

Very High

Palatability

Excellent

Digestibility

Excellent

Crude Protein

High

Tonnage (Yield)

Very High

Nitrogen fixation (lbs/a/year)

-

Use/Application

Continuous Grazing

Good

Rotational Grazing

Excellent

Hay

Good - Excellent

Silage

Excellent

Seeding Rates (HG/HA)

Pure Stand

28 to 39.2

Hay mixture (with legumes)

2.2 to 4.5

Hay mixture (with grasses)

11.2 to 28

Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

Description

Birdsfoot trefoil is a long-lived, non-bloating perennial legume that can provide excellent nutritional value to pasture and additional summer production when grasses often go into a growth slump. It is tolerance to poorly-drained and somewhat acid soils.

Strengths

Medium yields; tolerates poor drainage and acid soils better than alfalfa; fair summer regrowth; tolerates drought; excellent forage quality; non-bloating.

Limitations

Slow to establish; less productive than alfalfa on well-drained, fertile soils; subject to invasion by weeds; slow recovery after hay harvest; fair palatability; intolerant to close cutting; susceptible to root and crown rot; must allow self-reseeding for improved persistence.

General

Longevity

perennial

Growth Habit

Bunch

Primary Growth Seasons

spring, summer, early fall

Plant Height (in cm)

40 to 110

Seeds (per lb)

370,000

Seedling Vigor

Poor

Climate and Soil Tolerances

Heat/Drought

Fair - Good

Cold

Fair

Wet Soil/Poor Drainage

Excellent

Salinity

Fair

High pH Alkalinity

Good

Low pH Acidity

Good - Excellent

Fertility Requirements

Optimum pH

5.5 - 6.0

Required Fertility Levels

Low - Medium

Performance Potential

Feed Value/Quality

Very High

Palatability

Fair - Good

Digestibility

Excellent

Crude Protein

High

Tonnage (Yield)

Medium - High

Nitrogen fixation (lbs/a/year)

50 - 150

Use/Application

Continuous Grazing

Poor - Good

Rotational Grazing

Good

Hay

Excellent

Silage

Excellent

Seeding Rates (HG/HA)

Pure Stand

4.5 to 6.7

Hay mixture (with legumes)

1.1 to 7.8

Hay mixture (with grasses)

1.1 to 7.8

Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens)

Description

Due to its high leaf-to-stem ratio, white clover is very palatable. It persists well in pastures that are consistently grazed short and is adapted to a wide range of soil types.

Strengths

Low yields; Tolerates poorly drained soil; very palatable; tolerates close and continuous grazing.

Limitations

Its shallow root system limits production on excessively drained soils and during droughty periods; can cause bloat when grazed.

General

Longevity

short-lived perennial

Growth Habit

Stolons

Primary Growth Seasons

spring, fall

Plant Height (in cm)

8 to 25

Seeds (per lb)

800,000

Seedling Vigor

Fair - Good

Climate and Soil Tolerances

Heat/Drought

Poor - Fair

Cold

Poor - Fair

Wet Soil/Poor Drainage

Good - Excellent

Salinity

Fair

High pH Alkalinity

Poor

Low pH Acidity

Fair - Good

Fertility Requirements

Optimum pH

6.0 - 7.0

Required Fertility Levels

Low - High

Performance Potential

Feed Value/Quality

Very High

Palatability

Excellent

Digestibility

Excellent

Crude Protein

High

Tonnage (Yield)

Low

Nitrogen fixation (lbs/a/year)

75 - 180

Use/Application

Continuous Grazing

Excellent

Rotational Grazing

Excellent

Hay

Fair

Silage

Fair

Seeding Rates (HG/HA)

Pure Stand

-

Hay mixture (with legumes)

1.1 to 4.5

Hay mixture (with grasses)

1.1 to 4.5

Festulolium (Festulolium spp.)

Description

Festulolium grass species are hybrids derived from crossings of the festuca family and the Lolium family species. While varieties are very diverse, the better varieties are similar to ryegrass in quality, palatability, and feed value, yet similar to fescues (meadow or tall, depending on parentage) in hardiness. Can be either diploid or tetraploid.

Strengths

High yielding under good fertility and moisture; quick establishing; better summer growth and winter hardiness than perennial ryegrass; grows especially well in the spring and produces palatable forage with high nutritive value similar to that of perennial ryegrass.

 Limitations

Less heat tolerant than tall fescue and less winter hardy than other grasses; Lower yielding, less competitive with legumes, and later to mature than orchardgrass; difficult to cut with a sickle bar mower; slower to dry than other grasses.

General

Longevity

3 - 5 years

Growth Habit

Bunch

Primary Growth Seasons

spring, early summer, fall

Plant Height (in cm)

30 to 60

Seeds (per lb)

227,000

Seedling Vigor

Excellent

Climate and Soil Tolerances

Heat/Drought

Fair - Good

Cold

Good

Wet Soil/Poor Drainage

Good

Salinity

Good

High pH Alkalinity

Fair

Low pH Acidity

Fair

Fertility Requirements

Optimum pH

6.0 - 6.5

Required Fertility Levels

Medium - High

Performance Potential

Feed Value/Quality

Very High

Palatability

Excellent

Digestibility

Excellent

Crude Protein

High

Tonnage (Yield)

High

Nitrogen fixation (lbs/a/year)

-

Use/Application

Continuous Grazing

Good

Rotational Grazing

Excellent

Hay

Good - Excellent

Silage

Excellent

Seeding Rates (HG/HA)

Pure Stand

28 to 39.2

Hay mixture (with legumes)

2.2 to 4.5

Hay mixture (with grasses)

11.2 to 28

Hybrid Ryegrass (Lolium hybridum)

Description

Hybrid ryegrass species are very similar to annual ryegrass, except their longevity can extend up to 3 years, depending on the variety and climate conditions. Depending on variety, they can be very fast to establish. Both diploid and tetraploid varieties exist.

Strengths

High yields; Similar to annual and perennial ryegrasses; cost effective for short-term, multi-year applications.

Limitations

Similar to annual and perennial ryegrasses.

General

Longevity

short-lived perennial

Growth Habit

Bunch

Primary Growth Seasons

spring, fall

Plant Height (in cm)

30 to 60

Seeds (per lb)

237,000

Seedling Vigor

Excellent

Climate and Soil Tolerances

Heat/Drought

Poor

Cold

Poor - Good

Wet Soil/Poor Drainage

Good

Salinity

Fair

High pH Alkalinity

Fair

Low pH Acidity

Good

Fertility Requirements

Optimum pH

6.0 - 6.5

Required Fertility Levels

Medium - High

Performance Potential

Feed Value/Quality

Very High

Palatability

Excellent

Digestibility

Excellent

Crude Protein

High

Tonnage (Yield)

High

Nitrogen fixation (lbs/a/year)

-

Use/Application

Continuous Grazing

Good

Rotational Grazing

Excellent

Hay

Good - Excellent

Silage

Excellent

Seeding Rates (HG/HA)

Pure Stand

28 to 39.2

Hay mixture (with legumes)

3.4 to 5.6

Hay mixture (with grasses)

11.2 to 28

Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata)

Description

Where it can be grown, orchardgrass is a versatile perennial tall-growing bunch grass that establishes rapidly and is suitable for hay, silage, or pasture. With its high quality and palatability, it is a preferred species for pastures and hay. Orchardgrass is very compatible to legumes and other grasses.

Strengths

High yield - especially under good fertility management; shade tolerant; well adapted for mixtures with legumes; rapid regrowth; good summer growth; good drought tolerance; fair flooding tolerance in summer; responsive to nitrogen.

Limitations

Early to mature; forage quality and palatability decline rapidly with heading; poor flooding tolerance in winter; aggressive toward legumes; bunchy growth; less tolerance to drought or winter hardiness as tall fescue and bromegrass; poor winter flooding tolerance.

General

Longevity

perennial

Growth Habit

Bunch

Primary Growth Seasons

spring, summer, fall

Plant Height (in cm)

60 to 122

Seeds (per lb)

450,000

Seedling Vigor

Good

Climate and Soil Tolerances

Heat/Drought

Fair - Good

Cold

Poor - Good

Wet Soil/Poor Drainage

Fair - Good

Salinity

Fair

High pH Alkalinity

Fair

Low pH Acidity

Fair

Fertility Requirements

Optimum pH

6.0 - 7.0

Required Fertility Levels

Low - High

Performance Potential

Feed Value/Quality

High

Palatability

Good

Digestibility

Good

Crude Protein

Medium - High

Tonnage (Yield)

High

Nitrogen fixation (lbs/a/year)

-

Use/Application

Continuous Grazing

Good

Rotational Grazing

Excellent

Hay

Excellent

Silage

Excellent

Seeding Rates (HG/HA)

Pure Stand

11.2 to 16.8

Hay mixture (with legumes)

2.2 to 4.5

Hay mixture (with grasses)

9.0 - 11.2

Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne)

Description

Perennial ryegrass is known to have excellent forage quality and digestibility. It establishes very easily and germinates rapidly, making it a good grass for repair and overseeding. Ryegrass responds rapidly to water and nitrogen, making it excellent for dairy applications where manure water is available. Like annual ryegrass, perennial ryegrasses are either diploid or tetraploid.

Strengths

Medium yields; vigorous establisher; high forage quality and palatability; high leaf-to-stem ration; compatible with legumes.

Limitations

Less persistent than orchardgrass; lacks heat and drought tolerance; difficult to dry for hay; difficult to cut with sickle bar mower; poor summer regrowth.

General

Longevity

perennial

Growth Habit

Bunch

Primary Growth Seasons

spring, fall

Plant Height (in cm)

30 to 60

Seeds (per lb)

237,000

Seedling Vigor

Excellent

Climate and Soil Tolerances

Heat/Drought

Poor

Cold

Poor - Good

Wet Soil/Poor Drainage

Fair - Good

Salinity

Fair

High pH Alkalinity

Fair

Low pH Acidity

Fair

Fertility Requirements

Optimum pH

5.5 - 7.5

Required Fertility Levels

Medium - High

Performance Potential

Feed Value/Quality

Very High

Palatability

Excellent

Digestibility

Excellent

Crude Protein

High

Tonnage (Yield)

Medium - High

Nitrogen fixation (lbs/a/year)

-

Use/Application

Continuous Grazing

Good - Excellent

Rotational Grazing

Excellent

Hay

Good

Silage

Excellent

Seeding Rates (HG/HA)

Pure Stand

28 to 39.2

Hay mixture (with legumes)

3.4 to 5.6

Hay mixture (with grasses)

11.2 to 28

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Description

This quick establishing legume can provide high quality and forage quantity for two to three years. Red clover’s tolerance to diverse soils allows it to be used in some areas where alfalfa will not grow.

Strengths

High yields; excellent seedling vigor; tolerates wet and acid soils better than alfalfa; fair summer regrowth; resistant to insects; excellent for renovation and overseeding.

Limitations

Susceptibility to crown and root diseases; not heat or drought tolerant; fair palatability; difficult to dry for hay; can cause bloat when grazed; many varieties only persist 2-3 years.

General

Longevity

2 - 3 years

Growth Habit

Bunch

Primary Growth Seasons

spring, summer, early fall

Plant Height (in cm)

30 to 90

Seeds (per lb)

275,000

Seedling Vigor

Good - Excellent

Climate and Soil Tolerances

Heat/Drought

Poor - Fair

Cold

Fair

Wet Soil/Poor Drainage

Fair - Good

Salinity

Fair

High pH Alkalinity

Poor

Low pH Acidity

Fair - Good

Fertility Requirements

Optimum pH

6.0 - 6.5

Required Fertility Levels

Medium - High

Performance Potential

Feed Value/Quality

Very High

Palatability

Fair

Digestibility

Excellent

Crude Protein

High

Tonnage (Yield)

High

Nitrogen fixation (lbs/a/year)

50 - 200

Use/Application

Continuous Grazing

Fair

Rotational Grazing

Good

Hay

Good

Silage

Excellent

Seeding Rates (HG/HA)

Pure Stand

11.2 to 13.4

Hay mixture (with legumes)

1.1 to 9

Hay mixture (with grasses)

1.1  to 9

Smooth Brome (Bromus inermis Leyss.)

Description

Smooth bromegrass is a leafy, sod-forming perennial grass best suited for hay, silage, and early spring pasture, especially on well-drained soils. It spreads by underground rhizomes and through seed dispersal.

Strengths

High spring yield; winter hardy; sod-forming; leafy summer regrowth; good drought survival; best on fertile, well-drained soils.

Limitations

Difficult to drill unless mixed with something like oats; susceptible to damage when cut or grazed in jointing stage; not tolerant of frequent cutting; poor summer regrowth; susceptible to leaf diseases.

General

Longevity

perennial

Growth Habit

Rhizomes

Primary Growth Seasons

spring, summer, fall

Plant Height (in cm)

30 to 90

Seeds (per lb)

137,000

Seedling Vigor

Good

Climate and Soil Tolerances

Heat/Drought

Good

Cold

Excellent

Wet Soil/Poor Drainage

Poor - Fair

Salinity

Fair

High pH Alkalinity

Good

Low pH Acidity

Poor

Fertility Requirements

Optimum pH

6.5 - 7.0

Required Fertility Levels

Medium - High

Performance Potential

Feed Value/Quality

High

Palatability

Excellent

Digestibility

Good

Crude Protein

High

Tonnage (Yield)

Medium - High

Nitrogen fixation (lbs/a/year)

-

Use/Application

Continuous Grazing

Poor

Rotational Grazing

Good

Hay

Excellent

Silage

Excellent

Seeding Rates (HG/HA)

Pure Stand

13.4 to 20.2

Hay mixture (with legumes)

5.6 to 7.8

Hay mixture (with grasses)

2.2 to 13.4

Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea)

Description

Tall fescue is known as the most heat tolerant cool-season forage species. Due to its deep-roots, it can tolerate dry and hot conditions better than most forages. Tall fescues wide adaptation to different soil types and fertility allows it to be used in many management practices including hay, silage, managed grazing, and continuous grazing.

Strengths

High yields; persistent; leafy regrowth; good seedling vigor; summer flood tolerance; excellent for fall/winter stockpiling; tolerates heavy traffic; widely adapted and persists on acidic, wet soils of shale origin; drought resistant; survives under low fertility.

Limitations

Poor palatability and quality in summer; low summer production; can become coarse; dominates non-vigorous legumes. Use of entophytic varieties can cause animal health problems.

General

Longevity

perennial

Growth Habit

Bunch, short rhizome

Primary Growth Seasons

spring, summer, fall

Plant Height (in cm)

60 to 120

Seeds (per lb)

227,000

Seedling Vigor

Good

Climate and Soil Tolerances

Heat/Drought

Good

Cold

Poor - Good

Wet Soil/Poor Drainage

Good

Salinity

Good - Excellent

High pH Alkalinity

Good - Excellent

Low pH Acidity

Excellent

Fertility Requirements

Optimum pH

5.5 - 6.0

Required Fertility Levels

Low - High

Performance Potential

Feed Value/Quality

Medium

Palatability

Fair- Good

Digestibility

Good

Crude Protein

Medium

Tonnage (Yield)

High

Nitrogen fixation (lbs/a/year)

-

Use/Application

Continuous Grazing

Good

Rotational Grazing

Excellent

Hay

Excellent

Silage

Good - Excellent

Seeding Rates (HG/HA)

Pure Stand

16.8 to 22.4

Hay mixture (with legumes)

9.0 to 11.2

Hay mixture (with grasses)

9.0 - 11.2

Timothy (Phleum pratense)

Description

A favorite grass for horses and hay, timothy is a cold-hardy perennial bunchgrass that can be very productive grass on clay, silt, and sandy soils, provided that there is adequate moisture available. It produces most of its annual yield in the first crop.

Strengths

Medium spring yields; late maturity; winter hardy; easy to establish; leafy regrowth; good companion for non-vigorous legumes; popular for horses.

Limitations

Poor palatability and forage quality in summer; not tolerant of frequent cutting - slow recovery; susceptible to damage when cut in the jointing stage; shallow root system - unsuitable for droughty soils; intolerance of hot and dry conditions.

General

Longevity

perennial

Growth Habit

Bunch

Primary Growth Seasons

spring, fall

Plant Height (in cm)

7 to 25

Seeds (per lb)

1,152,000

Seedling Vigor

Fair

Climate and Soil Tolerances

Heat/Drought

Poor

Cold

Excellent

Wet Soil/Poor Drainage

Fair

Salinity

Good

High pH Alkalinity

Good

Low pH Acidity

Fair

Fertility Requirements

Optimum pH

6.0 - 6.5

Required Fertility Levels

Low - High

Performance Potential

Feed Value/Quality

Medium - High

Palatability

Fair - Excellent

Digestibility

Excellent

Crude Protein

Low

Tonnage (Yield)

High

Nitrogen fixation (lbs/a/year)

-

Use/Application

Continuous Grazing

Fair

Rotational Grazing

Good

Hay

Excellent

Silage

Excellent

Seeding Rates (HG/HA)

Pure Stand

9.0 to 11.2

Hay mixture (with legumes)

2.4 to 4.5

Hay mixture (with grasses)

1.1 - 6.7

White Clover, Ladino (Ladino Trifolium repens)

Description

Ladino white clover varieties are usually more productive than Dutch white clover varieties and will survive taller pasture situations.

Strengths

Tolerates poorly drained soil; very palatable; excellent adaptation to managed grazing systems.

Limitations

Its shallow root system limits production on excessively drained soils and during droughty periods; can cause bloat when grazed.

General

Longevity

short-lived perennial

Growth Habit

Stolons

Primary Growth Seasons

spring, early summer, fall

Plant Height (in cm)

30 to 60

Seeds (per lb)

860,000

Seedling Vigor

Fair - Good

Climate and Soil Tolerances

Heat/Drought

Poor - Fair

Cold

Poor- Fair

Wet Soil/Poor Drainage

Good - Excellent

Salinity

Fair

High pH Alkalinity

Poor

Low pH Acidity

Fair - Good

Fertility Requirements

Optimum pH

6.0 - 7.0

Required Fertility Levels

Low - High

Performance Potential

Feed Value/Quality

Very High

Palatability

Excellent

Digestibility

Excellent

Crude Protein

High

Tonnage (Yield)

Low

Nitrogen fixation (lbs/a/year)

100 - 200

Use/Application

Continuous Grazing

Fair

Rotational Grazing

Excellent

Hay

Fair

Silage

Fair

Seeding Rates (HG/HA)

Pure Stand

-

Hay mixture (with legumes)

2.2 to 4.5

Hay mixture (with grasses)

1.1 to 4.5