Establishing a Cool Season Legume Grass Finishing Pasture

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $8,992.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2025
Host Institution Award ID: G345-22-W9210
Grant Recipient: Browns Meadow Farm
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Ronald Wade
Browns Meadow Farm


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: pasture renovation
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research

    Proposal summary:

    • A major challenge for an organic grass-fed/finished operation is quality finishing pasture.  Such a pasture must be better quality than one that supports a cow-calf herd.  Historically, organic grass-fed/finished operations haven't been investigated; one (SW17-046) assessed dairy cattle performance.  Our research question asks if a legume-grass (various legumes) pasture can be established under organic conditions (no herbicide, no commercial fertilizer), at three environmentally different locations, that produces a density comparable to nearby existing grass pastures.
    • We propose seeding acreages of approximately 40, 10, and 10 acres to sainfoin-grasses,  sainfoin-orchardgrass, and both sainfoin-orchardgrass and birdsfoot trefoil-orchardgrass.  The first acreage has three sainfoin varieties mixed (Eski, Remont, Shoshone) nearby, the second supported Eski in the past, while the third is slightly acidic.  If these pastures produce a density comparable to existing grass pastures, their establishment is beneficial to the environment and pasture finishing due to the presence of legumes (
    • We will determine if the legume-grass seedings can be established at comparable densities as nearby existing grass pastures, or not.  If they can, there are two major benefits.  First, the legume contributes benefits to the soil and forage that are different from those of grass.  Second, sainfoin and birdsfoot trefoil do not cause bloat in cattle, which makes them very useful for grazing in an organic grass-fed/finishing operation.  These benefits are important for sustainability, the first because of its environmental contributions and the second because of its economic importance.
    • Results will be disseminated to local networks by ranch tours and presentation.









    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. At two locations, can a sainfoin-grass pasture be established that is generally comparable in density to a nearby existing grass pasture?
    2. At a third location, can a sainfoin-grass pasture and a birdsfoot trefoil-grass pasture be established that is generally comparable in density to a nearby existing grass pasture?
    3.  Disseminate the results from the above objectives to local networks.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.