Just over a year ago, when artificial fertiliser prices were going through the roof, I decided it was time to take action and reduce the amount of product that I was using.

As well as the cost, I was also keen to lower my carbon footprint. Although, the bottom line was simple: with artificial fertiliser prices rising by as much as 300%, it was becoming extremely hard to financially justify the amount I was buying each year.

However, I was not prepared to reduce my stocking rate, because the more cattle and sheep I sell out through the gate, the more I can dilute my fixed costs.


For years, grassland management has been simple. If I needed grass, I sowed artificial fertiliser, and if I had weeds then I sprayed whatever product was the most effective. I had no consideration for clover or its benefits.

Last year, I went off in a different direction. I stitched in clover into a lot of my existing swards, and I also tried some multi-species swards (MSS).

My hope was to graze a similar number of livestock with a significant reduction in the amount of artificial fertiliser being used.

I had never really tried to actively grow clover before. Sometimes I had good clover (in a reseed) for a few years and then I would come in with a spray to kill docks, and I would totally wipe out the plant.


I realised I was going to have to learn a new set of skills. The first thing was to get the pH right.

Most of my soils were sitting at pH 6 to 6.2, which was reasonable for grass swards, but too low for clover. Clover works better with a pH closer to 6.5.

So, I started out by adding lime to any fields that I was going to try the clover in, followed by action to get rid of most of the weeds.

With this done, I grazed tight and stitched the clover in. Then in a few weeks, I went back in and grazed again to keep the covers low and allow the clover plenty of light to develop.

Last year, I stitched in some clover almost every week from the end of May until the middle of July.

Clover works better with a pH closer to 6.5

Something that I did notice was that there was a better strike with the clover that was stitched in at the end of June or early in July, which was probably due to the warmer conditions.

Having established lots of clover, I now had to try and manage it successfully.

Last year, it was a matter of keeping covers low. The benefit in terms of reduced artificial fertiliser was very minimal.


This year, I am hoping to make substantial reductions in the use of artificial fertiliser on the ground with clover in the swards.

I have been trying to sow less fertiliser and rely on the clover to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. However, it has been difficult.

My natural instinct is to sow fertiliser to grow grass. In addition, weeds are starting to appear. I have tried to spot spray the weeds and it seems to have been working to-date.

Some of the paddocks are doing really well, with lots of clover present, but there are also paddocks where it seems very patchy. I can’t really put my finger on what has made it so variable.

The paddocks with lots of clover seem to be growing as much grass as in previous years, with a lot less artificial fertiliser applied, but the paddocks with less clover are struggling.

Some of the paddocks are doing really well, with lots of clover present, but there are also paddocks where it seems very patchy

It’s hard to know what to do now. If I can manage to resist the temptation to sow fertiliser, then it is possible that the clover will spread out.

It’s a difficult call, especially now that fertiliser prices have come back down from the highs of 2022.

I’m on a journey and it may be difficult, but there is long-term gain to be had. Clover isn’t easy to manage, but if I can crack it, then it should have a positive effect on my profit margin and my carbon footprint.

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