17 January 1996

Benefits of clover

INCREASED clover use could be worth an extra £300m/year to the livestock sector. This growth in income could boost incomes in other sectors of the economy by a further £130m.

So says Kevin Bevan, economist at SAC Auchincruive. "Couple reduced need for bag fertiliser with improved animal performance and the benefits to livestock farmers should be significant."

Increased profitability will be most marked for more extensive beef and sheep enterprises. Dairy incomes would rise by £20-£40/cow, beef by £20-£30/head and sheep profitability by £10-15 a finished lamb on a grass/clover system compared with a conventional grass sward.

The downside of the increase in grass/clover systems is for the fertiliser industry, which stands to lose £110m/year, while the knock-on effect on other industries associated with fertiliser adds to losses.

Mr Bevan warns that clover-based swards could not compete economically with intensive grass systems. But for those producers not aiming for high DM production but still opening a lot of bag N, clover could be a profitable option.n