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Clover usage reducing Nitrogen surplus on Grassland farms

Clover usage reducing Nitrogen surplus on Grassland farms

A series of 12 Clover farm walks organized by Teagasc across the country commenced today, Tuesday, 5 April. The farm walks will highlight the beneficial role that white clover is playing on grazing farms.

The first meetings are taking place on the farms of William Dennehy, Ballybeg, Currow, Co. Kerry, and on the farm of Kevin Moran, Ballinvoher, Caherlistrane, Co. Galway. The final meetings in the series of clover farm walks will take place on the farms of Michael Gowen, Kilworth Co Cork (April 14th) and Trevor Boland, Skreen, Co Silgo (April 19th). The full list of Clover Farm Walks is available to see at; Grassland Events - Clover Farm Walks

Clover management and establishment has been very successful on these farms through early over sowing in April/May and reseeding combined with good grazing management. Clover proportion measurements this spring have shown the paddock clovers proportion averaged 15% across all of the farms in 2022, which is exceptional. This will increase to greater than 25% in the mid-season with good management and will allow lower nitrogen usage mid-season. 

Clover Pilot farms

Dr Michael Egan, Grassland Researcher in Teagasc Moorepark stated; “The clover proportion on the farms ranged from 6% to 22%, which is good, but we still have some more clover establishment to do. But early over sowing combined with appropriate grazing managements has been successful for the Clover Pilot farms. We have a total of 33 Clover Pilot farms across the country”.  

With input costs increasing in 2022, this is an important year for grassland farmers to renew their emphasis on clover establishment, but combine this with improved grazing management.

The nitrogen surplus on the farms averaged 169 kilograms of Nitrogen per hectare (kg N/ha), ranging from 123 to 203kg N/ha. This is showing the clover input beginning to reduce nitrogen surplus on the farms.  Farm gate Nitrogen use efficiency averaged 33%, ranging from 20 to 43%. This is well ahead of Teagasc National Farm Survey average of 25%.  

Dr Michael O’Donovan, Head of Grassland Science in Teagasc remarked; “These farmers have been the early adopters of Clover incorporation. They will continue to improve clover percentages on their farms and will reduce N usage accordingly. This series of Clover farm walks is a great opportunity for farmers to visit these farms so early in the season, and it will help other farmers adopt clover on their own farms”. The objective of the Clover Pilot programme is to increase the level of Clover on farms as well as decreasing farm gate Nitrogen surplus.

Management and establishment of grass-white clover swards

Teagasc have recently published a Management and Establishment of Grass/White Clover Swards Manual (download at link). It is widely available to all farmers and has been distributed to all Teagasc clients in the April newsletter. 

Dr Joe Patton, Head of Dairy Knowledge Transfer in Teagasc, said; “The clover walks are coming at an appropriate time of the year for Clover establishment and management. At the farm walks, farmers will also have the opportunity to discuss how to ensure feed security on their farms this year. It’s important this year for farmers to make sufficient home grown feed from their farms, starting with a good first cut silage.” 

More advice on feed security can be found at  Food and Feed Security for Grassland Farmers on the Teagasc website. | If you have any questions about this topic you can always talk to your Teagasc advisor.