How To Get The Ideal Clover Cover Into Your Fields

The benefits of adding white clover to grassland are well known to many farmers, and include uptake of nitrogen for plant growth and increasing herbage and milk production.

However, farmers at the Moorepark Dairy open day recently heard that clover can have its challenges.

20pc clover cover is the ideal amount

20pc clover cover is the ideal amount

It can lead to lower spring growth, but this should recover from July onwards.

Soil type can also impact clover and how it thrives. Soil that has a pH of 6.2-6.3 will suit clover best, farmers heard as it is very sensitive to pH. “If you find grass difficult to manage, you’ll find clover even more difficult,” farmers were told

Cows may also suffer more from bloat, farmers were told, in clover-rich paddocks, than they do in grass-only paddocks.

The ideal clover coverage is 20pc and farmers were advised to add it when reseeding ground.

Farmers not reseeding, but looking to introduce clover into their paddocks, should do so when spreading fertiliser.

However, they were told at the dairy open day in Fermoy not to mix the clover seed with the fertiliser in the yard, as it may settle to the bottom of the spreader en route to the field, but do mix it in the field just before spreading.

White clover grows well in association with grass and Teagasc research shows that there are several benefits associated with the use of white clover in grass-based milk production systems.

White clover can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and make it available for plant growth. Incorporating white clover into grazed grassland can increase herbage production, particularly at lower N application rates. Research from Clonakilty Agricultural College found that incorporating white clover into intensively managed swards increased annual herbage production by 1.2t DM/ha – relative to grass only swards.

Grass-white clover swards tend to be higher quality in mid-season, compared to grass-only swards as sward clover content increases from May onwards. Teagasc research shows increases in milk and milk solids production from grass-white clover swards, again compared to grass-only swards.

The Benefits of White Clover - Moorepark

The Benefits of White Clover – Moorepark

It can also contribute to reducing N fertiliser application, thereby improving N use efficiency on farms.

Clover Grazing Management

· Try to maintain a sward clover content of 20-25pc.

· Pre-grazing herbage mass – 1300-1600kg DM/ha.

· Post grazing sward height – 4cm (50kg DM/ha).

· Grazing rotation of 18-21 days mid-season.

· Early grazing in spring to stimulate plant growth.

(Source – Irish Independent – Indo Farming – Margaret Donnelly – 4/07/2019)

The Irish Clover Officially Recommended For Use By Farmers Across The UK

The first-ever Irish red clover (Trifolium pratense) variety, named Fearga, has been bred by Teagasc at Oak Park, Carlow, as part of the Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Programme.

Red clover is a nitrogen (N) fixating legume with the capacity to fix 150-200kg of N/ha/year.

It is relatively drought tolerant, due to its deep tap root, offering superior production to white clover in dry summers.

It is primarily used for silage production, offering high yields of high-quality forage with greater animal intakes and performance than grass silage.

Red Clover

Red Clover

It is an ideal break crop to improve soil structure and fertility and to supply organic matter. Fearga was bred from the variety Merviot by one cycle of phenotypic recurrent selection for high yield, persistency and longevity.

There are no official red clover trials in Ireland.

However, Fearga has excelled in the UK official trials across Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales.

It was found to be the highest yielding variety in the UK, yielding 22% and 31% more than the control variety Merviot in the second and third harvest years, respectively.

Fearga also offered significant improvements in persistency, with 54% higher autumn ground cover than Merviot in the third harvest year.

As a result of its trials success, Fearga is officially recommended for use by farmers across the UK.

Fearga is being commercialised under licence by Goldcrop Ltd, an Irish seeds and inputs company, which will market and distribute seed to farmers across Europe, including Ireland and the UK.

(Source – Irish Examiner – Farming – Stephen Cadogan – 26/08/2019)

Related Article:

Grass Advice – Autumn Grazing Made Simple


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