There has been a renewed interest in red clover incorporation in swards in recent times in light of high nitrogen (N) fertiliser prices.

In particular, in multi-cut silage on outblocks of land, due to the high yields that can be achieved.

Annual yields of up to 15t DM/ha have been recorded at Teagasc Grange and Solohead under zero-N fertiliser input.

High level of production

Red clover is best known for its ability to fix atmospheric N into a plant-available form, which can supply the equivalent of approximately 300kg/ha/year to the crop.

It is a relatively short-term ley and maintains a high level of production for three to six years. However, several measures can be taken to promote the longevity of red clover in the sward.

These practices include zero N fertiliser input, maintaining adequate potassium (K) and phosphorous (P) fertilisation, avoiding damage by compaction by machinery and animals and ensure adequate lime application.

Nitrogen fixation is a biological process and relies on a soil pH of 6.5 to 7 to work best.

High prices

As a result of the high prices of fertiliser and concentrates, the decision was made to put in five acres of red clover on Tullamore Farm this year.

It was sown in late May and two weeks later, 10:10:20 was spread at a rate of two bags to the acre. The first grazing took place on 20 July and the paddock was then closed off before a cut of silage was taken off it in good weather conditions.

Silage test results show the silage is high in protein at 16.6%. This year, there were 13 bales taken from it, which will go towards twin- or triplet-bearing ewes, which will reduce the need for concentrates.

More details on the red clover silage sward and silage testing results will be discussed at the Footprint Farmers open day on Thursday 24 November on Tullamore Farm.

Farm manager Shaun Diver will also discuss his winter feed plan on the day. The event is free to attend and you can register here.