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Ken Gill May/June Update 2023

Red clover silage

Red clover silage

  • Target pH of >6.5, index >3 for P and K
  • Cutting height and wilting is important
  • Red Clover Measure 2023 open for applications until 29th May
Using nutrient analysis results

Using nutrient analysis results

  • Organic poultry manure sourced
  • Results show high levels of N & P, but lower K versus FYM
  • It was spread on fields for spring oats at 2.5t/acre
Update on weights & cull cows

Update on weights & cull cows

  • Cattle weighed on 5th April
  • Calves were similar to previous year’s group but store cattle are behind target
  • Cull cows killed conventionally

Animal Nutrition

Swards with a high red clover content have the potential to fix 150-200kg nitrogen (N)/ha, which allows for reduced chemical N use on conventional farms, while reducing greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions.

Different species in the sward allow for enhanced biodiversity, while the deep taproot gives greater drought tolerance and contributes to improved soil structure. Research from Teagasc Grange shows that red clover silage achieves higher voluntary intakes from animals, which supports higher growth levels.

For Ken Gill, red clover fits into his tillage rotation, which is typically: grassland > oats (two years) > red clover (three to four years) > oats (three years) > grassland. The mix used for the current crop was organic and contained 10kg perennial ryegrass, 3kg red clover, and 1kg white clover. It is advisable to use red clover varieties from the UK recommended list as no Irish list is available. Soil fertility is crucial and the red clover field has a pH of 7.1 and is in index 4 for phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).

The field yielded 13 bales/acre in 2022. The silage analysis for the first cut showed 77.56% dry matter digestibility (DMD) and 14.8% crude protein at a dry matter of 34.38%.

The Red Clover Silage Measure is open until May 29th and is paying €300/ha to farmers who wish to establish red clover on their farms this year. Find out more here

Find out more about how Ken manages red clover for silage in the video below;

Soil Fertility

The organic poultry litter has been applied to the tillage ground for the crop of spring oats. Approximately 60t was spread across 24 acres, at an average rate of 2.5t/acre. The sample analysis showed that it contained 7.52kg nitrogen/t, 9.16kg phosphorous/t and 7.83kg potassium/t. The dry matter was 32.4%.

This means that 18.8kg nitrogen, 22.9kg phosphorus and 19.6kg potassium per acre were applied to the spring oats. The crop has a requirement of 45kg nitrogen at a soil index of 1. It also requires 10kg phosphorus and 38kg potassium per acre at index 3 soils.

Freshly sowed field on Ken's farm


The cattle were weighed on 5th April. The 2022 born heifers (30) averaged 249kg and gained 0.91kg/day since birth. The 2022 born bullocks (35) averaged 273kg and gained 1kg/day since birth. They were only slightly behind the 2021 born cattle at the same age.

The 2021 born heifers (21) averaged 442kg, but only gained 0.17kg/day since 28th December. On 28th December they were 46kg lighter than their comrades the year before.

The 2021 born bullocks (38) averaged 485kg, but only gained 0.15kg/day since 28th December. They were 17kg heavier than their comrades in December but are now behind them.

7 cull cows went to the factory on 30th March and were killed conventionally. They had an average carcass weight of 337kg and graded O+3=.  They made an average price of €1627 per head.