Organic convert is in the clover
We paid a visit to the Mayo farm returning liveweight gains of 1kg/day without concentrates
It's clover that's the real driver of this business," Teagasc's Dan Clavin told farmers attending the farm walk at Eugene Kirrane's last week.
"Eugene achieved a daily liveweight gain from his stock during a 36 day period last winter of over 1kg/day - without any concentrates (which cost €500/t in organic system).
"It's the red clover silage that is able to do this. Stock prefer it over grass silage because it's more palatable, so they tend to eat more of it. But it's also higher in minerals and protein than grass silage at about 20pc, and maintains a high digestibility throughout the year because it doesn't go to seed and become stemmy. But it's real benefit is its ability to fix the equivalent of 200kg/ha of nitrogen annually," he said.
Mr Kirrane was equally enthusiastic about the potential of the seed mix, which is initially an 80:20 mix of clover and ryegrasses.
"We got 17 bales per acre off it last year over the course of four cuts. That was probably double what I'd been getting off the same area with grass, which is absolutely phenomenal because there was no fertiliser used bar 2,000 gallons of slurry out each time after cutting. It was just a field that you'd love to go out and look at because every day it was nearly two inches higher," he said.
Trials at Teagasc Grange with red clover confirm the high yields, with crops generating 15.5tDM/ha over the course of four cuts. This was in soils that had optimum fertility and pH levels, and the crop has persisted for up to six years.
However, persistence is a big challenge, as Mr Kirrane has discovered.
"I was disappointed with the yields from the crop this year, with 13 bales per acre from two cuts so far, and I don't know if we'll get another cut with the way things are going. The yields of everything here in the west suffered with the weather, but I'm worried that the clover is beginning to die out in the field. It was certainly much more prominent in the sward last year.