What place does clover have in the grazing platform

What place does clover have in the grazing platform

The use of white clover in grass mixtures can offset up to 150kg N/ha per year in inorganic N fertiliser. This is equivalent to 7 bags of 18.6.12/acre.

The incorporation of white clover into grass swards has the potential to significantly reduce the reliance on inorganic N fertiliser and increase the financial and environmental sustainability of Irish farms.

One of the significant benefits of clover is its ability to fix N in the soil in a form that becomes available to grass in the sward. As a forage, white clover is highly digestible, with crude protein content averaging over 20%.


The use of white clover in grass mixtures can offset up to 150kg N/ha per year in inorganic N fertiliser. This is equivalent to 7 bags of 18.6.12/acre.

For maximum benefit, a sward should be managed to 20-30% white clover content.

  • +800kg DM/ha
  • Opportunity to reduce N fertiliser
  • Dry matter intake +1.5kg/cow per day
  • Milk solids +30kg MS/cow per year

Specialist Nutrition Grass Mixtures contain white clover as standard.
Our White Clover Blends are suitable for oversowing to boost clover content in the sward. Sow white clover at 2- 2.5kg/acre.

Benefits of oversowing high yielding white clover

Supporting intakes

Gaining the most from the grass you have is vital if you’re looking to reduce inputs. Proactive management of clover content up to 30% will greatly enhance grazing. The structure of fibre in white clover differs from that of perennial ryegrass and it can be broken down in the rumen more rapidly, driving intakes in grazing livestock.

Seasonality

Providing quality grazing throughout the season is another way of reducing the requirement for bought-in feed. Clovers are a very useful way to support productivity during periods of reduced grass growth. For example, when grasses begin to decline in both quality and quantity during the summer, clovers flourish. The ME and protein content of clover remains high during this time so it can take the place of supplementary feed resulting in substantial cost savings.

Drought resistance
Clovers’ summer resilience is especially beneficial to farms which become particularly dry during the summer months, ensuring feed availability throughout the season. Clovers can persevere where grass cannot.

Improved soil health

The root structure of clover helps to enhance soil health providing a noticeable impact on productivity and fertiliser requirements. White clover has been shown to significantly decrease the density of soils and improves the movement of nutrients resulting in greater grass production.

DLF clover in mix white high nitrogen ireland

Establishing and managing clover in the sward

Establishing white clover takes time and some specific management.

Specialist Nutrition recommends targeting to establish up to 30% of the farm at a time.

Achieving good white clover content across the farm should be a medium-term goal and should be carried out over a number of years.

A full reseed is the most reliable method of establishing white clover. However, as the options for post-emergence treatment become more limited, many farmers are choosing to over-sow white clover into existing awards.

No matter what sowing method is used the 4 key principles of successful establishment and management of white clover should always be considered.

4 key principles of successful establishment and management of white clover

Soil

- Ensure adequate soil P, K and pH status

- Sow seed no more than 1cm deep

- Roll to ensure soil-seed contact

Timing to introduce clover

- Sow when soil is warm (+10°C), and there is some moisture – ideally April to May

Seed

- Over-sow at a rate of 2 – 2.5kg/acre

- Use small and medium-leaf varieties for grazing and large-leaf for cutting. See mixtures below in download

Light

- Over-sow after a tight grazing or silage cut so light can stimulate seedling growth

- After sowing, graze at ~1,100kg DM/ha for the following 3 rotations to establish adequate white clover content

Once established, graze white clover swards at low covers (max 1,600kg DM/ha) down to 4cm to avoid competition from grass and allow light reach the clover plants

Tips to Avoid Bloat

  • Introduce animals to high-clover swards slowly
  • Make sure animals are full entering high-clover sward
  • Do not graze clover with a heavy dew
  • The use of bloat oil in water troughs will reduce the risk of bloat