A 15 year old perennial crop of organic Prime Sainfoin


Prime Sainfoin is an ancient forage traditionally known as “healthy hay”.  Because it does not respond well to fertilizers it became sidelined by the commercial chemical era.  It is not a human food, but its environmental benefits can manifest in healthy meat and dairy products and the breathtaking beauty of a flowering field of sainfoin can be envisioned as “food for the soul”.  

Prime Einkorn originated from Russia and is the natural selection of 30 years of organic growing in Canadian Prairie conditions.

Characteristics of Sainfoin

Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifoliais) is a perennial legume forage similar to alfalfa.  A most important feature is that it is bloat free.  The tannins that make it bloat free, also make it an excellent fodder for young livestock because it has anti-parasite effects.  Canadian forage researchers recognize that tannins can improve protein use and inhibit E.coli in manure and are also looking at its role in reducing methane gas emissions and improving feed efficiency.  Similar research on Sainfoin has started in Europe and the UK.   (www.reading.ac.uk/about/about-pressreleases2007.asp and http://healthyhay.groupsite.com/main/summary )  Similarly, current research in Hungary is testing functional feed in organic husbandry to improve the quality of meat and dairy products. (Agricultural Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences)

Saifoin does best in well drained soils and rich, lowland should be avoided.  It is quite drought tolerant. 

Ideal Organic Forage

Sainfoin is highly palatable, preferred over alfalfa by all livestock and has better digestibility.  It is more winter hardy and starts growth earlier in the spring often out yielding alfalfa.  Re-growth is good but lower than alfalfa.   Longevity is good, depending upon the soil and conditions with some established fields producing well after 10 and even 20 years.  The USDA Plant Guide states that some plantings have survived for 60 years.

There is no threat of genetically modified contamination because Sainfoin is already naturally resistant to Roundup and many chemicals, and does not cross with alfalfa.

Sainfoin is highly attractive to pollinating insects, particularly honey bees and makes excellent honey.  It is not considered invasive.  It is unaffected by alfalfa weevils.


For pure stands, 30-40 pounds/acre are recommended, while mixes can have 10-20 pounds/acre.  Bunch grasses such as meadow brome, Russian wild rye and crested wheat grass are recommended with sainfoin.  Spring seeding is recommended.

Shallow seeding is imperative.  It can be drilled or broadcast.  Successful stands of Sainfoin have even been simply broadcast into standing crops and established forage, but establishment is naturally slower under such adverse conditions.


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