FAQ & Planting Guide



Sainfoin is well-adapted to the hay-stockpiling system used by ranchers in Montana &Wyoming, and the northern Great Plains. In this system, first-cut hay is harvested, and the resulting aftermath is used for fall grazing. Sainfoin at mid-bloom retains its leaves and nutrient content better than other forage legumes, and first-cut yields of sainfoin are consistently higher than those of alfalfa. Sainfoin is bloat-free due to its levels of condensed tannins, however it is highly palatable to livestock and wildlife

Sainfoin is a non-bloating legume that has nitrogen fixation capabilities and can be used in a forage mixture. Sainfoin also is extremely palatable and nutritious for all classes of livestock and wildlife. Livestock actually prefer sainfoin even when other plants species are readily available. Other uses include wildlife habitat restoration, wildlife food plots or as a legume component in the conservation reserve program (CRP). Sainfoin is often compared to alfalfa based on its nitrogen fixation, forage capabilities, and nutritional value. The main advantages of sainfoin are the earlier maturation rate, non-bloating qualities, resistance to the alfalfa weevil and higher digestible nutrients when compared to alfalfa. Another important advantage over alfalfa is that sainfoin is resistant to the root rot phase. The earlier maturation allows for earlier spring forage for grazing and hay cutting which is beneficial to livestock operations (Gray, 2004, p. 2).

Sainfoin is primarily used as a hay or pasture crop and has many characteristics beneficial to farming and ranching operations in the western states such as Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Montana and New Mexico where annual precipitation in generally low. Sainfoin is very drought resistant and does better in cold soils than alfalfa (Stannard, M). It is also shown that sainfoin thrives in soils with a pH 7.0 to 8.0 that are too dry for clover and alfalfa. Sainfoin is longer lived in dryland applications opposed to irrigated land but generally needs re-seeding every five to six years. Another interesting positive side-affect about sainfoin is the relationship it shares with honey and leaf cutting bees. The large pink flower attracts these insects and on top of producing large amounts of high quality honey, the sainfoin showed increased seed production when the bees were present.


Shoshone was developed and released for a high tolerance to northern root-knot when compared to "Remont" Variety. Shoshone was jointly released in 2006 by the College of Agriculture Experiment Stations at the University Of Wyoming, Montana State University and the USDA-NRCS. Foundation Seed is Maintained b the University of WYoming, Seed Certification Service In Powell Wyoming, and is the seed used to establish our Shoshone Variety of Sainfoin that produces our High Quality Shoshone Sainfoin Seed


Sainfoin begins growth in the spring about the same time as alfalfa, but flowers one to two weeks earlier. First cutting hay yields have exceeded those of alfalfa in Montana & Wyoming. On areas where hay production is limited to one cutting on dry-land, or because of a shortage of irrigation water, it may replace alfalfa.

Sainfoin is very palatable, and is grazed by livestock in preference to alfalfa. It is relished by deer.The primary reason for using sainfoin is that, throughout their long history, Onobrychis species have never been known to cause bloat nor is it attacked by alfalfa weevil. It is highly palatable to both sheep and cattle, being preferred over alfalfa. It may be grazed or used for hay, either alone or in mixtures with grasses. It grows well with Russian wildrye and crested wheatgrass.

Our Sainfoin is taller than the sides of our truck!

Compare this to picture of our alfalfa feild taken on the same day in the same stage of growth!

This is a Picture of our Alfalfa feild on the same day and same stage of growth as our Sainfoin Feild Pictured above!


Sainfoin is well suited to hay harvesting as it grows upright and is easily cut. Although it is somewhat higher in moisture content than alfalfa, it does not present the problems in curing that red clover and alsike clover do. Since regrowth is very poor, it is best suited to taking one clipping at about the half- to full-bloom stage. Unlike alfalfa, it does not drop its lower leaves; stems remain succulent as the plant matures so that quality does not decrease so rapidly.


The advantages of sainfoin for pasture use include excellent quality and palatability that give superior animal performance without the danger of bloat. However, grazing in the bud or early bloom stage, and keeping the grazing height above about 8 inches, will lengthen productive life from two to three to about six years in irrigated areas.

It is adapted to dryland pastures as well, and grows satisfactorily in mixtures with bunchgrasses such as Russian wildrye or crested wheatgrass. However, total yields are slightly higher when sainfoin is grown alone.


In a worst-case harsh non irrigated environment we see these yields

Native sod=.25 ton/acre

Alfalfa=1.5 ton/acre

Shoshone=3-5 ton/acre

In the lush irrigated (over a 4 year average) fields by Clark Wyoming:

alfalfa = 4.75 ton/acre

sainfoin = 5.22 ton/acre

other non-bloating legumes = 2.5 tons/acre

What is the total cost of developing a field?

At the Browning site over a 20 year period, $50 per acre, depreciated at 7% interest is $3/acre, spray and spraying $5/acre / 3 ton, is total cost $2.66/ton of no-bloat high quality forage.

What about fertilizer?

none needed.

How do you keep the fields clean of cheat grass and other weeds?

We simply spray an annual application of 5-6 ounces of glysophate costing $1/acre of chemical.


• Depth of 1⁄2 to 1⁄4 inch

•Drills with depth bands work good

•Sainfoin does not emerge from deep planting • May be seeded as solid stand in 7-12 inch rows or in wide rows (22 in).

•May be planted with grain drill
• Recommended seeding rates may vary
• Can be broadcasted then raked in

• No till drill will work
• The higher the PH level the soil the better
• Roundup Resistant, spray 4-6 ounces per acre on new seeding, 8-12 ounces as needed every year after that
• Must be inoculated with a special inoculant (we sell this with the seed you buy)
• Can be done dry or dampened
• Plant as early in the spring as possible. Can also be planted in early fall, for a better first year stand

Can I Use Roundup On Sainfoin Feilds?

Yes sainfoin is roundup resistant.

Bighorn Sainfoin Seeds Co. -Experts with sainfoin; we develop, produce, process and direct market our high Quality Sainfoin Seed.

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Bighorn SAINFOIN SEED Co. 2013