Birdsfoot trefoil is a great forage legume that can be used on many farms with livestock. Birdsfoot trefoil has the adaptation to grow in areas with poor drainage and low soil pH.
Think of birdsfoot trefoil this way - you can almost plant it anywhere you want to grow alfalfa, but for whatever reason, the alfalfa won't survive.
It works well in pasture situations where 40-50 day rest periods are possible.
Trefoil can be dry baled or wet wrapped, but can have high dry matter losses due to its very fine leaves. Its stems are smaller than alfalfa stems, but they are harder to condition and get dry.
Birdsfoot trefoil maintains good forage quality from vegetative growth through seed production. It also has tannins in it and ruminant animals will not bloat on it.
Trefoil does have a bitter taste to livestock and it might take them some time to adapt to grazing it. It’s an acquired taste, kind of like coffee.
Birdsfoot trefoil does not liked to be grazed or mown short because it doesn’t build up root carbohydrate levels until the fall and depends on regrowth during the summer from leaf area.
Be patient when you plant trefoil for two reasons:
- First, it is slow to establish, but once you get a good stand, it will be there for a lifetime.
- Second, it can have a large amount of hard seed and take several years for it to germinate and establish. It will, however, reseed itself very well.
With all of this in mind, birdsfoot trefoil can be used very successfully if it is managed well and cared for.