New sainfoin cultivar promises bloat-free alfalfa pasture grazing

Scientists have developed a new variety of sainfoin that offers bloat-free grazing for cattle when paired with alfalfa in a mixed stand.

Development of the new cultivar, tested as LRC 3902, was led by Dr. Surya Acharya of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Lethbridge. Acharya announced the variety and its proposed name of Mountainview at the Alberta Forage Industry Network AGM, Feb. 5, in Ponoka, Alta.

“This new sainfoin cultivar is truly one of a kind and represents an exciting new opportunity for cattle producers,” Acharya said in a release. “It is the first sainfoin cultivar that will survive in alfalfa pasture and grow back at the same rate after cutting or grazing. It will prevent bloat in mixed stands to provide producers with their first real, economically viable option to allow for highly productive, bloat-free alfalfa pasture grazing.”

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Sainfoin is a high-quality forage legume crop that features a condensed tannin concentration. This is very effective at preventing deadly pasture bloat in ruminants. However, until now, sainfoin cultivars have not survived well in alfalfa pasture or grown back after the first cut.

When grown under irrigated and rain-fed conditions of Western Canada, LRC 3902 outyielded Nova, the check variety, by 22 to 42 per cent in pure stands and 30 to 39 per cent in mixed stands with alfalfa. It also showed strong regrowth. Mountainview reaches flowering 10 days earlier than Nova and has a seed weight with pod of 20-24 g per 1,000 compared to 18-22 g for Nova.

“Mountainview’s rapid regrowth after cutting is very different from Nova and is one of its greatest benefits,” says Acharya. “I think cattle producers will find a lot to like in this new cultivar.”

Acharya and his forage research colleagues at AAFC Lethbridge are part of Alberta Forage Industry Network (AFIN), which was formed in 2010 to represent the forage industry in the province. More information is available at www.albertaforages.ca.

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