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Old 08-19-2008, 11:00 PM
VHORN4 VHORN4 is offline
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Default Alfalfa vs. Clover Pros and Cons

I have been considering planting alfalfa for a couple small foodplots (1 acre each) but would love to hear from those of you that have either or both clover and alfalfa. I have been growing clover for years, and I'm very happy with clover. A few of the pros for me are easy to grow, low maintenance, attracts deer, high protein, stays green until late hunting season, hard to over graze, and can spray to rid it of weeds.

Having said that, I have read a lot about alfalfa but don't have any first hand experience. I also do not have hay cutting equipment. Do deer prefer alfalfa over clover? Your thoughts will be appreciated.
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:54 AM
woodsman324 woodsman324 is offline
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I planted alfalfa one august and the deer went crazy for it that fall. The next year they did'nt want anything to do with it even when I mowed it to create young growth. The next year I planted again in august and the same thing happened. It could be just my deer but if I ever plant alfafa again it will be just as a kill plot and soil builder. I think if you dont have any agriculture near you its a different outcome. Every place is different so I'd suggest a test plot.
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:55 AM
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BlackHorseRanch BlackHorseRanch is offline
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I'm thinking about planting a few acres in alfalfa myself, but have also been thinking about a plant called Sainfoin. It is apparently bloat-free, more edible (less lignin in the stems I believe) and just as attractive to wildlife. Here is a little blurb about it:

"This highly nutritious plant was an important forage for heavy working horses in agriculture and a good source of nectar for honey bees in Britain. The plant has a deep taproot and so is very drought-resistant, but does not recover well from grazing. Sainfoin is difficult to establish, only yields one crop per year and is not persistent in grassland so is seldom grown in any significant acreage."

I think one of the pros to alfalfa would be that the deer are already used to eating the alfalfa. If you are in an area where they grow it, and if you can provide a source closer to their bedding areas, it might work out nice. At least here in WA, the deer seem to be very hesitant to expand what's on their menu, and I have a heck of a time getting them to touch anything but alfalfa and some clovers. Let me know what you decide!
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:24 PM
Lickcreek Lickcreek is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VHORN4 View Post
I have been considering planting alfalfa for a couple small foodplots (1 acre each) but would love to hear from those of you that have either or both clover and alfalfa. I have been growing clover for years, and I'm very happy with clover. A few of the pros for me are easy to grow, low maintenance, attracts deer, high protein, stays green until late hunting season, hard to over graze, and can spray to rid it of weeds.

Having said that, I have read a lot about alfalfa but don't have any first hand experience. I also do not have hay cutting equipment. Do deer prefer alfalfa over clover? Your thoughts will be appreciated.

You may want to read thru my thread on alfalfa before deciding but I have been growing alfalfa for nearly 40 years so I can tell you a little about it.

Alfalfa is better then clover simply because deer feed on it all year long...literally into Jan. here in SE Iowa. It's long lived (I've had stands last 10 years) put's roots down 10 feet or more into the subsoil making it more drought resistant and is a very high protien feed.

Deer feed in mine and other alfalfa fields literally every month of the year with the exception of a few late winter months...the same cannot be said for my adjoining clover plots.

Alfalfa is much harder to maintain however unless it is used for hay which then makes it one of the easiest crops! I no longer put up hay so I rent mine to a farmer which means I get paid cash rent, he does all the work and it is a constant supply of awesome green feed.

It is possible to mow it yourself but it's difficult because it is so heavy and leaving it lay can suffocate and smother it.

I am testing a one cut Siberian alfalfa called Falcata alfalfa that right now seems to be doing great..you may want to check the thread every now and then to see how it is doing and how it performs long term.

Alfalfa

Clover is certainly a breeze to maintain but it's just not much of a late season attractant...at least here in Iowa.
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:03 PM
mattjorgensen mattjorgensen is offline
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This was a terrific idea for a thread, thank you for starting it! I'm interested in this topic very much. I've had success growing clover, and I just seeded some birdsfoot trefoil which I have heard good things about. I'm interested in using some alfalfa as well. Sort of give the deer a legume buffet. But I've heard that alfalfa is much more sensitive to soil pH. Can any of you fellas comment on that? I need to do another soil test, but I will be somewhere between 5.5-6.0. I'm not looking for a perfect stand of alfalfa. What do you think?
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:19 PM
Lickcreek Lickcreek is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattjorgensen View Post
This was a terrific idea for a thread, thank you for starting it! I'm interested in this topic very much. I've had success growing clover, and I just seeded some birdsfoot trefoil which I have heard good things about. I'm interested in using some alfalfa as well. Sort of give the deer a legume buffet. But I've heard that alfalfa is much more sensitive to soil pH. Can any of you fellas comment on that? I need to do another soil test, but I will be somewhere between 5.5-6.0. I'm not looking for a perfect stand of alfalfa. What do you think?

Alfafa is more sensitive then clover so if you attempt alfalfa you'll want to corret the p.h. first. I've had to apply as much as 3-4 tons of lime per acre in some cases but was rewarded by beautiful alfalfa stands
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Old 08-20-2008, 01:39 PM
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sagittarius sagittarius is offline
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Clovers will grow in slightly poorer soils than alfalfa. Clovers stay palatable for a longer portion of the year than alfalfas do.

Alfalfas are more drought/temperature tolerant than clovers once established. Alfalfas have higher retained nutrition when dried.

If august planted alfalfa has that much attractiveness, adding some to a fall planted white clover plot would be an excellent idea. The alfalfa would flourish mid summer when white clover may go dormant. Then later in the early fall the clovers would take over.
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Old 08-20-2008, 09:28 PM
VHORN4 VHORN4 is offline
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My ground is in the southern midwest with fairly fertile soils. All of my proposed plots have PH levels of 6.8-7.0 because of years of liming. I do have mowing equipment large enough to take care of it, but I have no way of taking the trimming out of the field. My thought was that deer might keep it grazed pretty well with large deer number and small plots. I know there are several varieties, but which ones seem to be preferred by deer?

Lickcreek said "I am testing a one cut Siberian alfalfa called Falcata alfalfa that right now seems to be doing great..you may want to check the thread every now and then to see how it is doing and how it performs long term."

The reason that I have never tried it before was because of the fear of upkeep. With fertilzer prices out the roof, I want the best chance for success the first time. Would the deer keep it grazed????
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Old 08-20-2008, 09:58 PM
jbarrera jbarrera is offline
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This year I planted a two acre field with advantage ladino clover and puna chicory on half in the spring, and then just planted the other half with an alfalfa mix in early August. I will let you know which draws more deer since each are side by side. I planted the clover mix on the lower end of the field, and mixed vernal alfalfa, puna chicory, and durana on the upper well drained soil. Time will tell which draws better. This is my first try at Alfafla and after two years of lime applications pH was finally at 6.7 and I just added 2 more tons when I seeded to hopefully bump it to 7. What was really neat to see was what effect lime has on your soil test. This portion of the field had been limed for the last two years while the rest of the field had only been limed once. The twice limed portion required about 30% less fertilizer vs. the rest. (6.2 vs 6.7 pH) and Calcium % was close to 50 % higher.
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Old 08-20-2008, 10:15 PM
Lickcreek Lickcreek is offline
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Quote:
Would the deer keep it grazed????

Good alfalfa...deer will never keep up with it! If you need a low maintance crop then I would stick with clover.

Alfalfa is great if you can find someone to hay it but if you have to just clip it constantly it most likely won't be worth it.

Alfalfa is also unique because it holds growth way late into the year and deer will even dig thru snow to get to it but it's a whole lot easier if someone can bale it.

The Falcata is supposed to be a totally different breed and one cut a summer is supposed to be enough...time will tell!
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