What is it? Well according to the University of Wyoming…
Sainfoin is an extremely palatable and nutritious forage crop. It is preferred over other forage species by cattle, sheep and deer. It matures faster than alfalfa providing early spring forage.
Onobrychis viciifolia Scop., is a member of the Fabaceae (Leguminosae) family. It is native to regions around the Mediterranean, Black and Caspian Seas and north into Russia. It has been cultivated in Europe for at least 450 years. Sainfoin was introduced from Turkey into the northern Great Plains of the U.S. in Montana and North Dakota in the 1960s. From these early introductions, varieties of sainfoin released by Montana State University included ‘Eski’ in 1964 and ‘Remont’ in 1971. .Sainfoin is similar to alfalfa in feed value. Both can be cut and baled at 10% bloom. However, unlike alfalfa, sainfoin can be grazed as it does not cause bloat in ruminant animals. Sainfoin can be used for wildlife habitat restoration, for wildlife enhancement as a component with other forage species or as a legume component under the Conservation Reserve Program. Due to extreme palatability and limited acreage of sainfoin, deer fencing was required at several test sites in Wyoming and Montana in order to obtain seed and forage production data. Beekeepers indicate honey yields with sainfoin are much greater than from alfalfa.
Mark no-tilled in some sainfoin this spring into a portion of our pasture. Not only do the sheep and bees love it but it is beautiful to look at too! Here at the end of September it is still a dark green color while the rest of the pasture is pretty much dead. I am sure if we had sheep in this pasture right now we would not be able to keep them out of it.