How to get the ideal clover cover into your fields

20pc clover cover is the ideal amount
20pc clover cover is the ideal amount
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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