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Red Clover for silage swards


Red clover has the potential to fix between 150-200 Kg N/ha per year from the atmosphere in well managed silage swards. Nicky Byrne, Research Officer in Teagasc Grange highlights the progress of a red clover/ perennial ryegrass silage sward at Grange in this video

Red Clover is more suitable for silage swards

Red clover swards have the ability to fix higher levels of N (150-200 kg N/ha annually) when compared to white clover. Unlike white clover, which has a stoloniferous growth habit (i.e. reproductive stems growing along the ground), red clover has a tap root and grows upright with the crown acting as the growing point from which the stem grows and where nutrients are stored. The growing point of red clover is set higher in the sward than that of white clover or grass species making it more susceptible to physical damage from animals and machinery. This means that red clover is less suitable to frequent grazing and is established more often as a silage crop.

Red clover in silage swards at Teagasc Grange

In Teagasc Grange, red clover is being incorporated into some of the silage swards. The sward in the video was sown in August 2020 with a one-pass following a run of a disc harrow sown. Varieties selected were from the UK Recommended list by selecting varieties suitable to the farm system. High quality productive pastures were sought after. The persistency of red clover is expected to last less than 5 to 6 years, and so it was important to select the most persistent red clover varieties and to plan to leave a good quality perennial ryegreass sward behind, which could return to grazing afterwards. 

Although this sward was sown in autumn, a spring reseed is recommended so that the sward can be sprayed and grazed off prior to the winter months.

A three cut silage system was achieved from the sward resulting in a high level of animal performance of 0.83kgs of gain/day on the weanling dairy beef animals from the silage fed.

Find out more in the video below from Nicky Byrne on the progress of the red clover silage sward since August 2020.

Check back with Teagasc Daily next week where you can read more on research at Teagasc Grange into the role of red clover on beef farms.

Find out more here about Teagasc Grange | Read more about Red Clover agronomy and management (pdf)