Cows on clover return extra €160/ha
Clover trials at Teagasc's Clonakilty college have the potential to increase profit by €160 per cow, but carries with it increased risks of cow mortality due to bloat.
"We lost one cow out of 60 each year due to bloat during the two year trial, but we believe that with better management we can reduce that to zero on a long-term basis," said Clonakilty's farm manager, Fergal Coughlan.
Avoiding turning cows out hungry onto wet paddocks with very high clover contents is key to preventing deaths, when cows tended to gorge themselves on clover-rich swards for a prolonged period before consuming water.
Dosing the water system with bloat oil is the most effective way to prevent bloat, but it is important that the cows consume enough of this water to prevent the condition arising.
Despite the risks, farmers at the Positive Farmers conference in Cork expressed a keen interest in adopting the plant into their grazing systems.
While it has been ignored by many in recent times because of its lack of persistence in intensively farmed pastures, data showing that it can increase milk output by 784 litres and 58kg of milk solids per cow could lead to a turn around in the plant's fortunes.
"It increased drymatter production by 1.9t/ha, and this has been repeated over two seasons, so it is quite reliable now," claimed Dr Brian McCarthy, who jointly presented the findings with Mr Coughlan.