For once in my life, I seem to have managed to get my timings right and got my first cut of red clover silage harvested in near-perfect conditions.

It was 19 May last year before I harvested the first cut and I was keen to get started earlier this year, especially when I’m aiming for at least three cuts.

The field that was sown two years ago was looking good and was well ready for cutting. The field that was sown in the middle of last year was ok, but just not as impressive.

The two fields were treated the same, they got about 2,000 gallons of slurry and 1.5 bags of 10:10:20 per acre, but, at this point, there is a lot more clover in the two-year-old sward and that seemed to be the difference.

Thick lush sward

The two-year-old sward was a lovely dark green colour and had a nice thick lush sward. The one-year-old sward was a much lighter colour and just not as heavy, but will undoubtedly improve as time goes on because there is plenty of clover in it.

I toyed with the idea of mowing one field and leaving the other for a week, but I’d been watching the forecast and it seemed to be giving last Thursday, Friday and Saturday as three very good, warm, dry days and up to 20°C heat. Just what a red clover sward needs.

As we all know, clover is continuously fixing nitrogen, unlike in a normal silage-growing situation where one applies a certain amount of units of nitrogen, then wait a given number of days for the nitrogen to be used up by the plant and leave the crop safe to harvest and ensile.


A red clover sward is always going to have nitrogen in it, which can affect preservation. So, mowing dry and getting a good wilt is vital. I had my contractors well booked in advance. The plan was to mow it on Thursday afternoon, rake it on Friday afternoon and bale it on Saturday and that’s more or less what happened.

Some might disagree with the length of the wilt and say that 24 hours is enough, especially in the kind of weather we had over the weekend, but I disagree - a red clover sward is harder to deaden than a normal grass sward and needs the second day, in my opinion.

So, after a good wilt in near-perfect conditions, I ended up with six bales per acre in the one-year-old sward and eight bales per acre in the two-year-old sward, which I was more than happy with. The plan now is to get some 0:7:30 on, no chemical nitrogen this time and hopefully do the same in six weeks’ time.

My red clover averaged almost 26 bales per acre last year over three cuts, but some of the cuts were a lot damper than this one, so it will be interesting to see what can be achieved this year. Hopefully, the weather will be a little more accommodating.