Sweet clover shows up naturally in pastures each year. Many folks think of it as just another weed. However, it can become a welcome addition to your grasslands.

Sweet clover can be a curse or a blessing. Ignore it in pastures, and it can get coarse, stemmy and unpalatable — just like some problem weeds. Ignore it in hay land, and it could kill livestock if the hay gets moldy.

For these reasons, some people would prefer to kill it. It is easy to kill sweet clover with almost any broadleaf herbicide when plants are young. However, if sweet clover is managed correctly, you can take advantage of its forage value.

Sweet clover

Sweet clover management
Sweet clover’s feed value in hay is similar to alfalfa’s provided you do two things: Harvest before plants bloom, and make sure hay is made dry and stays dry. It sounds simple in theory, but weather can make it difficult to accomplish in practice.

 If grazing, you must start before plants get more than about 8 inches tall. Any later than that, the plants could quickly become coarse and unpalatable. Preferably, start when plants are only 3 or 4 inches tall, and keep enough animals grazing so the clover doesn’t get much taller. Make sure animals have plenty of other palatable forage to eat along with the sweet clover. This way, bloat risk is low and animals will eat more. If grassy leaves, not just stubble, remain in the pasture from last year, this is good enough. Bales of good grass hay or even clean, soft straw also work well.

Sweet clover does not need to be a headache. With wise management, you can take advantage of this bonus feed.

Source: Bruce Anderson is a Nebraska Extension forage specialist. This report comes from UNL BeefWatch.