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High Legume Pasture Project

Collaborator: Conrad Dolen, Fourth Creek

Funder: Alberta Agriculture & Forestry; Growing Forward 2

Research Technician: Dr. Lekshmi Sreekumar

From: Peace Country Beef & Forage Association 2017 Annual Report

Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia), an introduced legume that can be used as hay, or grazed by livestock possesses polyphenolics including condensed tannins (CT) that contribute to some of its superior nutritional properties such as improved protein utilization, bloat-free, and anthelmintic characteristics. Sainfoin plants are adapted to dry and calcareous soils, winter hardy, and resistant to the alfalfa weevil. Low persistence of sainfoin in mixed stands and high cost of sainfoin seeds are creating dilemma among producers when incorporating sainfoin varieties into their forage mixtures.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientist Dr. Surya Acharya at the Lethbridge Research & Development Centre has developed a new variety of sainfoin (AC Mountainview) with excellent productivity and good longevity. It also has been proven that AC Mountainview maintained higher dry matter yield in mixed stands than other sainfoin varieties. These improvements will likely benefit farmers in providing a superb forage for grazing and adding fertility to the soil. To provide farmers with the necessary information and experience to establish their own high legume pasture, demonstration sites were established across the province of Alberta and into the BC Peace. These sites were seeded to a 60% legume mixture, which was comprised of 20% AAC Mountainview, 40% alfalfa, and 40% grass mixture.


  • To explore increased forage productivity, drought resistance, and nitrogen fixation benefits with a high legume stand

  • To assess the bloat mitigation potential of sainfoin

  • To examine establishment success (and the challenges of establishment), bloat mitigation, and longevity of the legume stand

  • To explore the sainfoin performance under grazing pressure

  • To capture the performance of sainfoin across a broad range of climatic regions.


In the Peace region, PCBFA carried out the High Legume Pasture Project with Conrad & Daniela Dolen in Fourth Creek, which was seeded in 2016 and established well.

In 2017, ten random forage samples were collected twice (before and after grazing). The first sampling was done in July (before grazing) with a 0.25 m x 0.25 m quadrat and the second was done after the first frost in September using a 1 m x 1m quadrat.

In July 2017 (prior to grazing), the percentage of each species in the High Legume Pasture mix stand was as follows: 71.5% for grasses, 19.5% for alfalfa, 5% for weeds and 4% for sainfoin. There were some clovers in the forage mixtures collected. Common weed species observed included foxtail barley (which is difficult to control in a grass-legume mix), Canada Thistle and Dandelion.

In 2017, a second sampling (after grazing) was done in September after the first frost. For the second harvest, average DM yield of alfalfa was 892 lbs/acre, and 536 lbs/acre for grasses. Only a few sainfoin stands was observed in the field.

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