Nationwide rollout for Teagasc clover trials
Clover trials are due to be rolled out on up to eight commercial dairy farms around the country over the coming months, as Teagasc look to replicate the increased profits generated by the plant on research farms over the last three years.
Grazing cows on swards with an average of 30pc clover content at Clonakilty increased sales after costs by €160 per cow.
Clover had been abandoned by many farmers because of its lack of persistence, but Teagasc researchers have shown that it can increase pasture output and cow intake, even in situations where up to 250kg/ha of nitrogen was being applied.
Separate experiments in Moorepark and Clonakilty have shown an increase in milk solids per cow of 40kg and 58kg, respectively, from cows grazing clover swards versus non-clover swards.
The increased milk solids and higher profit does come with larger management challenges, especially reduced spring grass availability and higher risk of bloat.
While clover does not over-winter as well as grass, resulting in an additional silage requirement in the spring, researchers believe the additional 1-2tDM/ha of growth during the rest of the year more than compensates for the slow start.
Dr Michael Egan, who has been working on the research in Moorepark, said that cow mortality from bloat was not an issue, averaging 1pc over the past four years.