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To contact one of our “Forage for Profit” team, call the Seed Office on 01769 576232
or Graham Ragg on 07798 583667
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White clover boosts pasture productivity

White clover-based systems are capable of fixing more than 1kg of nitrogen per ha each day between May and September, or 150 kg over this period with a spread of 100 to 200 kg depending on cover and management. The white clover should represent 30% of the total dry matter of a grazing sward (averaged over a growing season); which means about 50% visible cover due to its leaf size in comparison to grass.

Given the right soil and air temperatures, this could generate a valuable seasonal total of up to 200kg N/ha. With fertiliser nitrogen priced at 78p/kg (£225/t for 34.5% N ammonium nitrate) reducing applications by 150kg would represent a £120/ha saving, without including tractor and spreader costs. In addition, clover has several other positive advantages. It starts rapid growth in May and continues to grow when grass growth slows mid-season. Ruminants can consume up to 30% more white clover than grass, and lambs are particularly selective leading to improved feed intakes and growth when compared to a straight ryegrass sward.

Feeding values are improved per unit of feed consumed, as is digestibility (D-value), whilst crude protein can reach 27% through the summer when levels in ryegrass-only swards are dropping sharply. The mineral content of clover is also significantly higher and this is reflected in greater intakes of mixed leys.

Clover performs across a wide range of grazing and conservation systems to regularly achieve a productivity 30% contribution to total sward dry matter. As the plant does not start active growth until May, this means that some early nitrogen can be applied to encourage the grass part of the sward without depressing the clover. Medium and smaller leaved grazing clovers will contribute best without further N being applied through the season, while the larger leaved cutting varieties are not repressed when N is spread for a heavier cut of silage. Farmers can choose individual varieties, or blends, to suit their own system. Mole Valley grazing and cutting blends comprise a versatile mixture of medium to large leaf varieties suited to rotational grazing and cutting for silage, depending on choice. Before considering a reseed it is advisable to soil test for pH and nutrients before sowing as clover and its associated bacteria will function best at around pH 6 to 6.5 and at phosphate and potash indexes of 2 and above. Sowing into a clean and fine seedbed at rates of between 1-2kg/acre of clover in the grass seed mix will ensure a more rapid development of the sward. MVF leys have selected companion grasses that are compatible with the clover to aid longevity.

Mineral content of swards

  White clover Perrenial ryegrass
Calcium 1.6% 0.6%
Magnesium 0.18 0.16
Phosphorus 0.6 0.3
Copper (ppm) 10 6.5
Selenium (ppm/100m) 0.6 0.2

Whilst a conventional reseed is often the best way to establish a grass/clover sward, sowing clover into an existing sward does minimise the time out of production. Over-seeding is best done in July or August into an open sward, ideally after a silage cut or a period of intensive grazing. It is important to check that the rest of the sward is ryegrass rich, or alternatively use a grass/clover mix as the over-seeding mixture. Harrow the ground, sow, Cambridge roll to push the seed into the soil and if possible spread with slurry as this slows the recovery of the existing sward, bur covers and protects the seedlings.

Once established, graze tightly in the spring to reduce grass competition over shading the clover. Rotational/paddock grazing enables swift recovery of both grass and clover, increasing total output. Then graze closely in the autumn to prevent winter burn but not to damage the stalons.

White Clover blends

MVF Grazing White Clover Blend

Crusader 50%
AberDai 30%
Aran / Alice 20%

MVF Cutting White Clover Blend

AberDai 25%
Alice / AberConcord 25%
Barblanca / Aran 50%

Rumigan White Clover Blends for grazing and cutting

65% organic content

Red Clover / blends

Red clover varieties:

Merviot, Milvus*, AberRuby* Lemmon*

Rumigan Red Clover Blends

Mix A and Mix B

2kg packs from all MVF branches
2kg and 25kg packs delivered direct to farm

Red Clover

Red clover is a short lived perennial legume that persists for 2-4 years depending on variety and management. It has a number of distinct advantages for dairy farmers and especially in mixed cropping situations where a three year ley is followed by maize or cereals.

It can be sown as a ley on its own, but it is most commonly sown with a choice of companion grasses which match its growth pattern and recommended cutting dates. The plant has a single strong and deep tap root, from which side roots spread. This tap root makes the plant more drought tolerant as well as aerating the soil and accessing deeper soil nutrients. All of its upright growth comes from a crown, at the top of the stem, which acts as a store for nutrients. Management of the crop hinges around preserving the crown and its reserves which supply the initial nutrients for recovery after cutting and in spring. Typically, red clover leys will give 2 – 3 heavy silage cuts at 6 -8 week intervals and autumn grazing, though care must be taken to ensure the crowns are not damaged or its persistency will be affected.

In the Southwest it is most typically sown in spring with compatible grasses under barley at 4/5th rate in April; then cut to give a bulky silage crop when the clover is at the optimum stage. It shares many of the characteristics of white clover, but is much higher yielding, producing up to 5 tonnes DM/acre of a high, preserved protein silage that always feeds better than its analysis. Similarly, it is excellent at fixing nitrogen and even in mixed swards none should be required when sufficient red clover is present. Sowing rate is 12kg/ac of the ley mix which should be 30 to 35% red clover to optimise its nitrogen fixing qualities. Companion grasses should be Hybrid tetraploid ryegrasses  (with timothy on heavy land) to optimise high sugars and growth patterns. Annual yields of 13-14 tonnes of DM/Ha can be expected with savings of 200 Kg N/Ha.

Before sowing, check that the soil pH is 6.0 or above and that the P and K indexes are 2.  Sow into a firm seed bed at 10 to 15mm deep, immediately after drilling the cereal cover crop, to ensure good germination and rapid emergence. First cut when 50% of the red flowers are part open.  Allow 5-8 years between resowing with red clover to avoid the risk of clover rot (Sclerotina).

We have a rnage of clover mixes to suit many different situations - call for details on 01769 576232 or contact the farm sales co-ordinator at your local branch.

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