The best kept secret in organic farming
Red and white clovers are the magic bullets for organic beef
Published 16/03/2016 | 02:30
The "best kept secret in Ireland" for generations has been revealed in the nutrient boost that red clover can deliver to beef producers from ensuring a generous measure of the plant in silage.
It was among the key words of advice to the hundreds of farmers at the Teagasc organic beef open day on the farm of John Purcell, at Golden, Co Tipperary where the use of red and white clovers have become a key ingredient in both pasture for grazing and forage for silage to maximise performance and increase profitability.
Clover is the "cornerstone of organic farming and the engine that drives productivity", Patrick Conaghan, Teagasc, Oakpark told farmers.
He explained the capability of the plant to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a plant usable form with annual nitrogen fixation of 150-200kg/ha achievable from swards with high red clover content with yields of 12 to 15t DM/ha achievable when grown with ryegrass.
However, the life span is typically two to four years at farm level and the main role for red clover is for silage production as continuous grazing will reduce yield.
It is also recommended that silage cutting level is set at 7-8 cm above ground and use of heavy machinery on red clover sward in wet weather should be avoided.
"It has a high protein content of 16 to 20pc and the feeding value of red clover silage is higher than grass silage resulting in greater animal intakes and higher levels of animal performance," he explained.
Results from Teagasc at Grange found that the mean live weight gain in beef production on red clover silage was 1.04kg/day, compared to 0.83kg/day where white clover silage was fed and 0.59kg/day on grass silage.