Walk-in Seedingsanrdsb2.jpg (5925 bytes)

Edward B. Rayburn, Ph. D.
West Virginia University
Extension Forage Agronomist

What is a "Walk-in" Seeding?

A "walk-in" seeding is a seeding method using grazing animals to establish legumes in a grass stand. It requires an adequate number of paddocks in a rotational grazing system to maintain proper control of the livestock for managing the stand. It uses the hoof action of the livestock to open up the established grass stand and walk the legume seeds into the soil. Then, the controlled grazing activity of the animals reduces the competition from plants already in the stand.

Correct Soil Fertility and pH

Before using a walk-in seeding, have the soil tested and apply the proper rates of phosphorus, potassium, and lime to meet the needs of the new seeding. For spring seedings, fertilizer and lime should have been applied the previous year since it is difficult to get lime trucks out on wet fields in the spring. (TRIM Fact Sheet 3201 - Sampling Soils, TRIM Fact Sheet 3212 - The Value of Agricultural Limestone)

Select the Forage Species for the Soil and Management to be Used

Select the legume species that are best adapted to the soil drainage and management to be used in the field. Improperly matching the legumes to the soil and management will result in the untimely death of the seeding. Legumes that establish easily using the walk-in method are red, ladino, and alsike clover. Most grasses do not establish well using this technique and their use is not recommended. (TRIM Fact Sheet 5122 - Orchardgrass and Tall Fescue Varieties , TRIM Fact Sheet 5190 - Disease Ratings of Red Clover and Alfalfa Varieties)

Control Plant Competition

There are two types of competition to a walk-in seeding, perennial weeds and desirable forage grasses. Remember that many so-called weeds are high quality forage. If you want to kill perennial weeds, use an appropriate systemic herbicide long enough before seeding to meet label restrictions. Competition to legume seedlings from grasses can be reduced by close grazing while walking in the seeds and by eliminating the use of N fertilizer. If a major part of the stand consists of undesirable perennial weeds consider using no-till or conventional tillage establishment. (TRIM Fact Sheet 5004 - Plant Growth and Development as the Basis of Forage Management )

Seed at Proper Rate and Depth Maintaining Good Seed-Soil Contact

Use certified seed of proven varieties to ensure clean seed with known performance. Seed red clover at a rate of 4-8 lb./a and ladino clover at 1-2 lb./a. Spread the seed over the pasture just before turning cattle or sheep into the paddock for grazing. Use the livestock to walk the seed into the soil surface, ensuring good seed to soil contact for germination. Moist soil conditions during the grazing and after seeding are best for establishing a walk-in seeding. Due to the need for moisture, these seedings are best done in early spring (March-May depending on elevation) or fall (August-September). (TRIM Fact Sheet 5302 - Recommended Seeding Rates of Forage Species When Seeded Alone or In Mixtures. )

Manage Grazing and Mechanical Harvest to Maintain the Desired Plant Species

A main reason new seedings are lost is that they are not managed properly after establishment. Graze the field at the appropriate timing and intensity for the forage mixture seeded. Remember that before renovation, a pasture is in balance with the soil fertility and grazing management used. Without changing the grazing or fertility management, a new seeding will revert back to what was there before. (TRIM Fact Sheet 5004 - Plant Growth and Development as the Basis of Forage Management )

Manage Soil Fertility to Maintain Forage Production

To maintain forage production, fertilizers should be applied to replace the plant nutrients removed in the harvested forage. These fertilizers can be home grown manure or purchased fertilizers and lime (TRIM Fact Sheet 5202 - Forage Fertilization Based on Yield and Management Goals).