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View Full Version : Do deer prefer Alfalfa over Clover?


Baranx4
11-16-2011, 08:41 AM
This is the second year in a row where the deer have really put a hurting on my food plots. This year I planted a large portion with ag soybeans and Eagle beans and the deer never let them get big. Maybe my fault for not putting up an electric fence. I ended up overseeding with annuals in September to compensate but even with good growth they still ate it to a putting green.

The problem was compounded by neighbors not planting anything due to wet weather and not putting up cover crops. This spring I am thinking of the same corn and soy but putting up a electric fence. If they eat it down then I am planning on planting alfalfa with a nurse crop of red clover in late august. So my question is do deer prefer alfalfa over clover. If I plant alfalfa I already have it sold locally.

Also there are a few areas that can hold moisture, how tollerant is alfalfa to wet feet? I really do like the idea of getting away from planting annuals.

blumsden
11-16-2011, 09:28 AM
My understanding about Alfalfa is, it doesn't like wet locations.

j-bird
11-16-2011, 10:52 AM
I would suggest plating a clover/chicory mix. The clover will feed the deer in the spring and fall and the chicory will provide a food source in the summer and fall as well. Alfalfa is a great summer forage, but it requires frequent mowing as the deer prefer the young growth - higher deer densities may reduce the mowing need. I have alfalfa and clover/chic mixes and I see more deer in the clover plots. My alfalfa likes drier soils and clover/chic I beleive is more adaptable to different soils and sunlight levels. Alfalfa will only grow well in a sunlight rich environment. Clover & chicory are also cheaper from a seed standpoint. My clover and chicory plots are also more attractive during the hunting season here (opens Oct 1) with the cooler temos while the alfalfa has started to go dorment at that time. As far as your annual selection goes - it tough to beat soybeans (if you can get them past the deer). They can provide both a summer and fall/winter food source. I have never had deer eat the corn plant and thus corn only provideds a fall/winter food source for me. Soybeans also have an advantage as you can top sow cereal grains or brassica into them once the leaves start to dry up on the bean plants.

sagittarius
11-16-2011, 10:52 AM
So my question is do deer prefer alfalfa over clover. If I plant alfalfa I already have it sold locally. Over all, white clovers are prefered over alfalfa during most of the growing season. Alfalfa needs frequent mowing/cutting to maintain palatability.

The problem with annual harvesting is the removal of nutrients (P & K)from the field. To keep up with the tonage of alfalfa removed, annual applications of potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, and boron may be required to maintain soil quality for healthy, palatable alfalfa. If you have put time and money into building up your soil quality .... do you want those banked nutrients going to the farmer, or the deer? ;)

CaveCreek
11-16-2011, 11:29 AM
Well, I don't think you are going to get optimum attraction out white, red clover or alfalfa, as a single stand. Come fall, winter grains are often going to have attraction that you don't find with any of the legumes.

Depending on how much acreage you have & want to play with, I would consider putting some to a perennial, and leaving some ground for annuals.

Deer in my location seem to really like alfalfa. I don't live in perennial clover country, so the only thing I could compare the alfalfa to is annual clovers. In general, the alfalfa seems to be preferred over annual clover, and despite what many say, when things start drying out in my location, LATE SPRING, the 2 ft tall alflafa gets hammered. Low acreage never needed any mowing from what I have observed. Deer in my location seem to really like alfalfa hay as well, so you can bet that they'll still hit some green, but mature alfalfa.

To me, the big difference, benefit with the alfalfa is the drought tolerance, and summer forage, often available when white dries down with, hot dry weather. In your location though, this might not be a problem.

dgallow
11-16-2011, 03:10 PM
This is the second year in a row where the deer have really put a hurting on my food plots................This spring I am thinking of the same corn and soy but putting up a electric fence. If they eat it down then I am planning on planting alfalfa with a nurse crop of red clover in late august. So my question is do deer prefer alfalfa over clover. If I plant alfalfa I already have it sold locally.

Also there are a few areas that can hold moisture, how tollerant is alfalfa to wet feet? I really do like the idea of getting away from planting annuals.

Traditional alfalfa does not tolerate poor drainage. The branched root types seem 'okay' with a moderately well drained site. Crops (other than rice) also grow best with proper soil drainage.

How big a field are we talking? 10+ ac going into alfalfa. If so, then correcting drainage issues with tile or surface sculpting may pay. Conisdering the high levels of fertility/lime for good alfalfa growth, initial costs climb further. Most farmers are not too interested in harvesting less than 10 ac, esp if equip has to be hauled/roaded for some distance...a thought to consider.

For your area, a rotational strip planting of white clover, rye/oats/peas/radish/red clover, and brassica should work very well...year round. Certainly there is nothing wrong with setting aside a 0.25 ac area on well drained site and planting that to alfalfa (establish with cereal rye in late summer)....a small test area minimizes the overall costs and not difficult to maintain...after a few years you will know how well it does on YOUR farm. If it doesn's work you didn't lose much and can plant any other forage to that area with great soil underneath.

With deer wiping out corn and beans, a focus on doe harvest may be in order. Is this a problem in normal years when the neighbors plant a crop? If so, then let the arrows fly! :D

Baranx4
11-16-2011, 05:00 PM
I've read about varieties of alfalfa more resistent of root rot than others. I am planning on subsoiling the entire field and actually adjusting certain areas that seem to hold water more.. Seems easier to work with diverting water than drain tiling. A neighbor did it a few years ago and it was $$$$. While tiling is the best way I can't justify the costs.

CaveCreek
11-16-2011, 09:59 PM
I've read about varieties of alfalfa more resistent of root rot than others. I am planning on subsoiling the entire field and actually adjusting certain areas that seem to hold water more.. Seems easier to work with diverting water than drain tiling. A neighbor did it a few years ago and it was $$$$. While tiling is the best way I can't justify the costs.

Unless you are sure you have a good market for the hay, I don't think I'd go to too much trouble. Alfalfa is great! but if you have good rainfall, then you have a lot of other good options too.

Not to mention, If the deer really do like it better than white clover :rolleyes: will you have a crop left to sell or lease?

If you have some "up hill" site that you can do a little drainage work to, and be in good shape, then I'd go for it. But you have to weight the total costs vs the benefits. Maybe soys are a no go, but what about a pure stand of corn? or Sorghum. Anything that procues both food and cover, has some advantages when you are trying to get a "big boy" out during legal shooting hours.

Geo
11-17-2011, 06:36 AM
I have an alfafa patch next to a clover patch and I would say deer preference wise it is a draw. Deer come to the clover and then go eat some alfalfa and visa versa spending equal amounts of time in each.

G

sandbur
11-17-2011, 08:03 AM
I have an alfafa patch next to a clover patch and I would say deer preference wise it is a draw. Deer come to the clover and then go eat some alfalfa and visa versa spending equal amounts of time in each.

G

Geo has it right..It depends on the recent weather, age of the stand, fertilization, and climate.

I feel a young stand of either is more attractive. An older stand of alfalfa may go winter dormant before clover does. A young stand of alfalfa or a quick snow cover without cold temperatures and the alfalfa might stay green (and so will the clover!)

dgallow
11-17-2011, 11:01 AM
I've read about varieties of alfalfa more resistent of root rot than others. I am planning on subsoiling the entire field and actually adjusting certain areas that seem to hold water more.. Seems easier to work with diverting water than drain tiling. A neighbor did it a few years ago and it was $$$$. While tiling is the best way I can't justify the costs.

That is a very sound plan...good for you...many are seeing $$$ from improved drainage and the effects on improved aeration/rooting ability...mostly tile for the long term ROI. Keep in mind though that with some soil types the effects of subsoiling are not long lasting....depends on the nature of the underlying clay and average weather. In the AR delta, one will see quite the variation in subsoiling.....some rip and plant at the same time each year....some never rip and grow a good crop in 6" of soil with irrigation....tile may not be as popular there since rice is commony grown. There are some very good agonomists in your area which would be a big help.

Baranx4
11-18-2011, 05:27 PM
If I plant alfalfa I actually have just about all of it sold. That is one of the major reasons I am thinking of going that way. I look at it that it could pay the taxes on the property. I couldn't get it this past winter. Either way this is the last year I will try soybeans if it gets eaten to the ground, I will probably try a solar electric fence and see if I can subsoil the wet areas.

CaveCreek
11-19-2011, 12:45 AM
If I plant alfalfa I actually have just about all of it sold. That is one of the major reasons I am thinking of going that way. I look at it that it could pay the taxes on the property.

Sold? or leased? Who's going to 1) cut 2) bale 3) fertilize?

Baranx4
11-20-2011, 01:39 PM
Sold? or leased? Who's going to 1) cut 2) bale 3) fertilize?

It would all be done by the same person who disks, tills, fertilizes, sprays, seeds, and cultipacks it.

Me

A friend has a 24t that I could have and I would pick up the rest of the equipment or borrow it off the same friends who borrow my stuff. Either that or I could probably have a friend do all the work after planting and then split it with him.