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Broadcasting at a low seeding rate

I’m in my first year of keeping my horses at home and am seeking to diversify my only pasture, which is mostly fescue (all boys so no worries about toxicity). After doing some research and attending a pasture seminar, I decided to try frost seeding a small amount of clover to fix nitrogen (I’ll add some more variety later in the year but clover is most successful with frost seeding). I bought 10 lbs to spread over 3-4 acres. I also bought a 25-lb over-the-shoulder style bag spreader. Unfortunately even the smallest hole was too large for the tiny clover seeds and the low seeding rate I wanted to achieve, and all my seed was gone after I walked across only a small portion of the field. For next time, what is the best way to broadcast seeds at a low rate like this? Do I need to do it by hand?

I’d like to know too.

I know my county ag guy suggested a Brillion distributor for bermuda, but apparently they are pricey and rare.

You don’t say how much you are putting out. How many acres. I will assume like most on the forum we are talking a few acres. You don’t want to plant clover like grass seed. You just want to “spice” the paddock/pasture in small amounts sporadically which can be done by hand. Clover can get pretty aggressive, most reseeds itself easily depending on management. It can and will shade out, crowd out existing grass. It has been my experience working with TBs they far prefer grass to clover. So if you are working with small acreage over time you will be losing grazing areas. IMO and experience I wouldn’t do it. Better off soil testing and fertilizing when needed. Much better bang for the buck. Clover has its way of working itself into most paddocks on its own.

The problem I have seen/heard with “seminars” and or extension agents by and large is the information given seems to be based more on the “science”, “book experience” then actual year in year out practical experience. Especially when it comes to horse management.

In KY because there is such a large concentration of horse farms in small geographic area there is a Horse Farm Managers “Club”. Which gathers several times a years to discuss what works and what doesn’t. So, when I have questions about anything that I am thinking of changing and or “buying into” I give a call to some of the farm managers I know and ask them. Saves a lot of time and money buying T-Shirts that I will regret wearing.

Fescue is fine for either gender. But not broodmares.

The above is based on my experience on my horse farm in my neck of the woods.

We spread a mix with clover on our goats small pasture . We used a small seeder ( held like 3-4 pounds of seed) that hangs on the shoulder and you turn the crank. It wasn’t very much and it had a small enough hole that it worked well. We were spreading red clover, which might be bigger seed than yours.

What kind of clover are you planting? I am guessing you know the dangers of Red and Alsike Clovers present to grazing horses?

I would not worry about clover taking over the field, if you do consistant mowing to keep the grass itself from getting tall or going to seed. You mow higher than a lawn, keep the grass between 5" to 8-10". This will keep clover short, dries out fast in the sun, doesn’t get tall to shade grass or get the problems going with horses eating damp clover from the dew.

With mowing often, high, you promote better root growth, new leaves on all the plants in the field, don’t scalp the grass roots or let them dry out. If plant can’t grow up, it will spread the roots, get more nutrition, water, to make a bigger, tougher plant. I try to mow about the 8" height down to 5", so I am not removing as much leaf length, plant is not shocked with being shortened going from 8" to 5 inches. Plenty of leaf to provide food and shade to the root. Taking off a 12 inch tall plant back to 4", is hard on the plant, has to recover from that shock, during which time it is not growing or providing food. Hot sun on short leaves dries it out faster, might burn it. No leaves for shade can let the soil dry excessively as well.

Small fields or paddocks need intensive care to keep growing in spite of the horses grazing them. I cut when I see heads forming on the stems, since once the grass plant sets seed, dries out, he QUITS GROWING, his job of reproduction is done for the year. Goes dormant.

I don’t mow in drought times, intensive heat, plant needs some leaves to survive and provide that shade on the root.

I am not sure where you are located, sounds South with Fescue fields. I have not planted clover by overseeding. There is some in my Mare and Foal pasture seed mix, and the clover does pretty well for me, even with constant mowing. I have not had good luck with overseeding anything. Birds ate much of the seed, or it just didn’t “take hold” on our pasture. I have to rough up the pasture ground with the disk, then spread seed and drag to cover it from the birds and weather. Seems to work well for thickening up our pasture growth of mixed plants. We do have foals now and again, so I can’t do fescue at all. The mix is good for our varied seasons, something is always growing, cold, warm, hot weathers. The clovers did well in our drought times, deep roots reached water to grow, gave horses stuff to graze on.

I didn’t know anyone ever planted clover in a pasture. For small seed like Bermuda, I have an old shoulder carried broadcaster with a canvas bag, and green paint on the metal, and wooden crank handle. I don’t remember the name, but I found it years ago in my Grandfather’s house. I looked online but couldn’t find one.
Back when we were first starting I asked our fresh out of school Ag agent about Winter grasses. He told me the only way to have perennial Rye grass around here was to let it go to seed. He was right…kind of.

Thanks everyone for your replies! It sounds like maybe I should have just done it by hand. I was trying to spread 10 lb over 4 acres of pasture but all of it dumped onto the ground within the first half-acre or so…definitely not “spicing,” which is more what I was going for. I was using one of those over-the-shoulder bag spreaders with the crank like Tom and Candy mentioned, but even the smallest setting was too big. The seeds are TINY. Maybe I could mix them with something if I try again, or partially block the hole?

Goodhors: I used Dutch white clover. There is very little diversity in my field because it was just allowed to grow for years before we owned the place so the tall fescue crowded out pretty much everything else.

One more question for you guys since you’ve been so helpful! Having way over-seeded the top/back of the field, should I even bother spreading a smaller amount on the rest? Or just hope it doesn’t take hold too much at the top and gradually spreads by itself?

Next time try mixing the seed with a good flowing dry sand. That will dilute the seed enough to allow you to spread at the desired topdressing rate.

It will take many YEARS to spread by itself through the field so I’d buy a bit more seed to spread on the rest of the field.