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White Clover

To grow 14 T Grass DM/Ha requires the application of nitrogen fertiliser to ensure the plant has access to nitrogen for grass growth. This is a cost to the system with 1 Kg nitrogen costing approximately €1. White clover has rhizobia bacteria in its roots that “fix” nitrogen from the air, and this can supply 50-200 kg N/ha per year. Increasing the clover content in grassland can result in increased production and quality with less nitrogen fertiliser.

White clover is the most commonly sown legume species in temperate grassland. White clover grows well in association with grass. It is tolerant of grazing and can grow over a fairly wide range of climatic conditions. White clover can increase the tonnes dry matter grown, increase animal performance as it is a higher quality feed, and it can reduce the need for chemical nitrogen which increases the nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) on farms. On Organic farms white clover content of swards determines grass growth potential. See attached publications below for more information on the benefits and incorporating white clover.

The Management and establishment of grass-white clover swards booklet discusses and sets out the principles for the management and establishment of grass-white clover swards so that the benefits can be achieved at farm level.

Before Establishing White Clover – Checklist:

  1. Soil Fertility – is the paddock at optimum soil fertility? (soil pH 6.2-6.5, soil P index 3 or 4, soil K index 3 or 4)
  2. Infrastructure – have you a paddock system where each paddock is grazed within 3 days on an 18-21 day rotation?
  3. Weeds – whether oversowing or reseeding, have weeds been removed before clover established? (weed management after establishing clover can be difficult)
  4. Varieties – which clover varieties will best suit your needs? (large leaf varieties - silage, medium leaf varieties – grazing cattle, small leaf varieties – grazing sheep)

Managing Grass/White Clover Swards

  • Graze covers every 18-21 days (9-10cm) – don’t let grass shade out white clover
  • Graze 4cm all year – let light down to the stolon
  • Reduce Nitrogen fertiliser applied from early may onwards (half rate)
  • Reduce bloat risk – for animals accustomed to clover swards bloat is not usually an issue. But for high risk animals introduce them gradually to clover swards, don’t let them in hungry to clover swards and don’t move them from poor quality swards to clover ones. Alternatively feed roughage before grazing, graze when the clover sward is dry or use bloat oil in the water (25ml/LU/Day).

Clover on Dairy Farms

Clover on Organic Farms

Red Clover