Clover the Sustainable Solution to High N Prices?

This autumn whilst walking grassland, it has been very obvious where nitrogen hasn’t been applied on ryegrass.  There has been a lot of rust on the grass leaves.  It’s the same most autumns.  Just look on the field margins where no nitrogen has been applied and you will see it!  This has the effect of reducing grass palatability and ME significantly as well as intakes.  This drops milk yield significantly and farmers say that there is no feed value in autumn grass!!

On the other hand, we visited an organic autumn calving herd recently and saw fresh calved cows giving 28-30 litres on 2-3kg cake and ad-lib grass clover (25-30 % clover content) on a heavy clay farm.  

There was no rust in sight as the clover has fixed the nitrogen in the soil to feed the grass to maintain its health and vigorous growth.  This backs up the research work results I saw at the recent Moorepark Open day in Ireland attended by 5000 Dairy farmers over three days.  Research is showing an extra 780 Litres of milk production per ha/per year from Grass/Clover + 150kg N/Ha vs Grass + 250kg N/ha with the same level of concentrate feeding.  Clover is more digestible and increases cow intakes especially in mid and late season when it is abundant in the sward.

But what about bloat and what about getting clover established and maintaining clover in the sward?  Like all things the clover content in the sward needs measuring to manage it.  Targeting and managing clover depends on what % clover is in fields in the first place at that particular time of year.  There are tried and proven techniques to prevent and manage most problems.  If research farms can do it with students and part-time labour, then an established livestock farm should be able.

The most important thing you can do is to ensure your soils all have pHs of 6.3 + and P & K indices of 3s.  It is too late to plant clover now in the autumn but plenty of time to soil test and act on the results over the winter and early next spring.

A 100kg less N/ha applied is a saving of 30 tonnes AN on a 100 Ha grassland farm.  At £400/t that’s a £12k pa saving plus better for environment and your carbon footprint.  There aren’t many things that benefit you financially and environmentally as much as clover but very few sell it to you as its cheap and your farming business is the biggest beneficiary!  What’s stopping you from making these big savings?  

Contact Gerard on 07976 426420 or e-mail,
to see how clover can be established on your farm.