Seeding oats and clovers now improves spring grazing

Now is the time to seed oats and clovers to improve spring cattle grazing resources and reduce costs, says University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist Patrick Davis.

“Feed is a major cow-calf operation cost,” says Davis. Oats and clovers are forages to seed now to improve spring grazing resources and help reduce supplemental feed costs.

“Proper establishment and grazing management of oats and clovers is key for optimum cattle performance,” he says.

Davis says MU Extension publication G4652, “Seeding Rates, Dates and Depths for Common Missouri Forages,” offers helpful guidelines on how to do this. Download at

“Proper grazing management is achieved through strip or rotational grazing,” he says.

Graze oats about 60 days after planting, Davis says. For optimum cattle performance, begin grazing oats at 5 to 6 inches. Initial stocking rate can be one animal to 3 acres. Adjust as growth changes.

“Clovers have more flexibility in establishment than oats because they can be broadcast or drilled,” he says.

Drilling is the preferred method, however. Drilling improves seed-to-soil contact and results in better establishment. “If you broadcast seed, use cattle hoof action as well as the freezing and thawing process to work the seed into the soil,” Davis says.

“Clover grazing management is key for optimum cattle performance and persistence of the plant in the pasture,” he says.

Grazing red clover when about half the plants are blooming will yield a feeding value similar to alfalfa. Longer periods between grazing white clover plants in grass stands will reduce its proportion.

White clover is a low-dry-matter, high-digestibility forage that has potential to cause cattle bloat. One way to prevent this is to slowly adapt the cattle to grazing the white clover, Davis says.

Other preventive measures include providing supplemental proxalene or bloat blocks to cattle. Place white clover in a mixed grass stand to reduce the chance of bloat.

Red clover, a high-quality legume, improves spring grazing resources with less bloat potential, he says. Red clover is high in magnesium and can reduce the incidence of grass tetany. Risk of grass tetany is greater during spring grazing because of low magnesium levels in lush grass. Older early lactation cows are more susceptible to grass tetany due to high nutrient demand and reduced ability to mobilize magnesium.

In addition to adding red clover to pastures, producers should feed a high-magnesium mineral 30 days before green-up until grass is past the lush growing period.

For more information, contact your local MU Extension agronomist or livestock specialist. Find additional resources at