Speaking at the Germinal technical day was Dr Nicky Byrne, livestock systems research officer in Teagasc Grange on the agronomy and feeding value of red clover.

Since 2019, Teagasc Grange has been able to reduce its reliance on chemical nitrogen (N) down to 120kg N/ha per year from 250kg N/ha by incorporating white and red clover.

Nicky spoke on the management of red clover on the research farm and how they have achieved €1,150 profit per hectare before labour and land charges on a dairy beef system.

Nicky weighed up the pros and cons of red clover silage, as it can biologically fix up to 200kg N/ha, grow up to 15t DM/ha, higher intake potential and better animal performance.


The downfalls of red clover swards are the issues around grazing, poor persistence and its difficulty to ensile due to low sugars and high N.

Teagasc Grange runs a three-cut system between May and September. First cut is very important, as it sets up the sward for the year. The earlier the first cut is, the better chance there is of producing a higher-quality silage in the third cut.

Nicky advised leaving a six- to eight-week interval between cuts.

Cutting the sward once a month puts a lot of stress on the crop, as it needs time to replenish carbohydrates.

Nicky also mentioned that while red clover is a very high-protein forage, there is a lower level of protein degradeability when passing through the digestive system.

There was also more N excretion diverted through faeces compared with urine, which is less harmful to the environment.