View Full Version : Clover vs alfalfa
04-19-2009, 09:58 AM
I am thinking of planting clover or alfalfa. Just not sure which one. I have plowed and disc'd approximately 4 acres now that was planted in soybeans last year. What is my next step and which plant would be best. One of my biggest concerns is weeds and how to control them. I have all the implements available to me, so equipment is not an issue for mowing and or baling. Help me decide what plant to use. Any help would be great.
04-19-2009, 10:12 AM
We planted clover and seemed to draw a lot more deer to our fields compared to the neighboring Alfalfa fields. I don't know if the varieties that you would plant as far as Alfalfa goes would be more attractive than that of a farmer. We did not apply any herbicides to our clover plot, we just mowed before the weeds went to seed. By September the first year we had a very weed free beautiful clover plot. The clover now is so thick that I think it would be very hard for weeds to compete.
04-19-2009, 10:49 AM
I have planted clover for years with great success. I planted alfalfa last fall to try and determine my deers preferences but due to a little rain the next week after planting then none for almost 7 weeks, my alfalfa stand is poor at best. For approx. 3 years I have read about both and it seems to me that others think alfalfa is preferred by deer many months of the year. The maintenance of both clover and alfalfa are close to the same with one big exception.... mowing.
Several on the members like LickCreek are very helpful with the pro vs cons. The main difference according to them is alafalfa really needs to be bailed when cut. They say that allowing the cutting to fall in the field can promote disease in the alfalfa and smother it. Both can take heavy browse (and I mean heavy) and produce a high level of protein.
I believe that both can be sprayed with Poast Plus and/or Select to keep the weed competition out but you would want to check the labels to confirm. I have used both on my clover with great results.
Have you considered putting 1/2 your total acres in each to see the differences? A lot of people bail alfalfa for resell, so you might be able to make a profit on alfalfa. I do know that my alfalfa was more expensive to plant because of extra fertilizer cost.
In general, I belive the establishment of alfalfa is more difficult but others have had great success too. However, I have been very pleased with my clover and will likely replant my other plots with clover this fall. I don't have hay equipment and the maintenance is very easy with normally 2-3 mowings per year. If I were you and could afford to plant both, I would do it to compare them on my property.
Hope this helps,
04-19-2009, 12:46 PM
I plant both. I use a alfalfa and medium red clover mix with a little chickory. To me there is not a better food plot mix. use about 10 lbs. of each and 3 lbs of chickory and mix together. As far as spraying the best time to spray is fall of the year. When you spray in the fall you kill about 90 to 95% of the grass. I do not plow or tiller but use a no-till drill. This will take care of your grass and weed problems. As you are not desturbing the seed bank. Any time you plow or disk you bring out new seed that has layed dorment for years. So it is best to plan 2 years ahead on your foodplot choices. As far as planting know I would spray and drill it in but you will have some grass come back because you only get about a 40% kill this time of year. Be sure to use medium red clover because this is a better for grazing.
04-19-2009, 04:10 PM
Here in the upper midwest you want to plant white clovers when you can. It is more cold tollerant than alfalfa, and is generally more prefered than alfalfa much of the year. If your area gets moderate regular rainfall, then white clovers will serve you better than alfalfa.
Farmers plant alfalfa because it holds its nutritional content when dried ... better than any other forage. Alfalfa also handles hot dry conditions better than any clover.
As for weed control, they are the same for both alfalfa and clovers.
Baling and removing forage is not recommended for foodplots .... because it removes calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and micronutrients from the plot/soil, that is not going to the deer ... and means alot more ferterlizer will be needed to put back into the soil to prevent it from becoming depleted.
04-19-2009, 04:22 PM
I think a determining factor is ph.
The clover was much more tolerant while the alfalfa needed 6.3 or better.
Like to plant the alfalfa just cant do it til my ph is better.
Got 20 tons of chicken maure due in May to help the
04-19-2009, 05:49 PM
I planted a grazing alfalfa and Will Ladino Clover in the same plot as a mixture. Below is a few of the pros and cons of the two:
Clover seed is cheaper than alfalfa.
Clover is easier to maintain than alfalfa.
Clover uses less nutrients (ie. less fertilizer) than alfalfa.
Clover will grow in a broader range of conditions.
Clover is less suseptible to diseases, bugs, and winter kill.
Clover was preferred over alfalfa in my experience.
Clover will continue to draw deer after cold weather, one good frost and alfalfa is dead!
Oh YAH! Alfalfa does green-up before clover in the spring! Bottom line is that I will NOT plant alfalfa again!
04-19-2009, 07:55 PM
That post above mine sums it up, also bugs can be a problem in alfalfa.
A few weed control basics:
Mowing wipes out annuals nicely, but cannot stop perennials from returning.
Perpetual disking of a plot (top few inches) from spring-fall kills 80% of all weeds because each time you restart another batch, then kill it, etc.
Roundup spray a plot in spring, summer, early fall, and then clover goes in the next spring, rolled or packed only...No weeds, clear plots.
Or get yourself a spray that can be put on clover (Whitetail Inst. sells one also, Poast, and 2-4d I have used, but it is a harsh chemical, and I'd not advise it.)
Like he said, every time you disturb the soil, weeds come in. Never disk and then plant immediately, as you'll have bad weeds.
04-19-2009, 09:58 PM
Thanks for all the info guy's. I have already plowed and disc'd my plot, and will let it set for a few weeks then roundup the weeds. I think I will plant clover for alot of the reasons you have given me. This is in east central Minnesota, so what kind of clover should I use, and where is the best place to get it? I have a local mill here that carries alot of seed, but did not know what would be the best.
Thanks again for all the help.
04-19-2009, 10:08 PM
You can do both. Here is one of my plots - a mix of durana clover and bulldog 505 alfalfa; pic was taken 4/18 . When the summer drought knocks back the clover, the alfalfa is there...
04-19-2009, 10:18 PM
WOW awesome plot!!! I will have to look into Durana and bulldog 550. Where is a good place with some info on them?
04-19-2009, 10:29 PM
I believe I got my seed from Cooper Seeds. But durana and bulldog may not be the best seed varieties for the frozen north - better if you to do more research.
04-20-2009, 01:27 AM
I use to have 15 to 20 acres of alfalfa that I would cut for hay and deer were in it all of the time. But for a food plot I think your best bet would be clover or a clover mix.
04-20-2009, 05:12 AM
losenut Have you done your soil tests? pH and the type of soil would help determine which clover, or even if alfalfa is posible under those conditions.
04-20-2009, 05:19 AM
Clover will continue to draw deer after cold weather, one good frost and alfalfa is dead!
I would have to disagree with that because alfalfa has different dormancy rates and mine will have some green growth and attract deer nearly all winter, where as in my climate no brand of white clover has stayed green and attractive all winter.
In a nutshell if you are planting a smaller food plot I would use white clover, if you have a "field scenario" where the ground can be rented out to a local farmer who can hay the alfalfa then alfalfa can provide a very positive cash flow and attract deer at the same time.
You can compare the pros and cons of each in my threads on the subjects:
04-20-2009, 07:58 AM
This is my field alfalfa, medium red clover and chickory. I plant the back of the field in corn, sunflowers and cow peas and the other 3 sides gets planted in the fall with crimson clover and bob oats. This makes for a year around food supply. The alfalfa will have deer in it all winter long.
04-20-2009, 12:11 PM
I can't speak to alfalfa, never planted it. But I can tell you that clover works very well for me in Northern MO. We have had clover planted for 8 years now, and our deer love it. We have used Imperial Whitetail Clover for that period of time. Ours is green and growing since March 15, and our deer were still utilizing it last December 26. Maintence is no more than mowing several times each summer. Since everyone has posted a pic, I'll have to as well :D
Your best bet is to plant a mix of clover ,alfalfa, chicory. The major seed dealers mix the seeds so as to maximize the positves of each seed type. Ideally we would like to plant an individual crop and get great results but thats not how nature works. If you plant a mix your more likely to get positive results. If you are determined to plant alfalfa make sure the ph is greater than 6.8 and that the seed bed is well drained otherwise you will have poor results. If in doubt plant a clover/chicory blend; lime and fertilize and control the weeds with mowing and spraying and you will be happy.
04-20-2009, 10:14 PM
Check out www.alseed.com they are in Albert Lea ,MN which may not be too far from you to pick up or have shipped. They are one of the largest supppliers of agricultural seed in the upper midwest. They have lots of deer plot items as well. They also carry bagged fertilizer if you would be driving there to pick items up. Neat place,nice people,buzy this time of year,was just there last monday for farm seed and a few things for a plot or two.
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