24 November 1995

Clover swards are preferred

STOCK prefer to graze clover-rich swards, and to eat more clover in the day and more grass at night.

These are the results of trials with sheep and cattle at Institute of Grassland and Environmental Researchs North Wyke, Devon, station.

IGERs Nigel Young claims sheep can select a diet of 20% clover from a 10% clover sward. But when given the choice they eat 75% clover and 25% grass.

"Although cattle are not selective grazers in the same way as sheep, trials with heifers prove they can exercise some preference, opting for a 60-65% clover and 40-45% grass diet," he says. "Furthermore, stock prefer to eat more of the clover during the day."

Mr Young said this could be because clover is more quickly digestible than grass and that animals graze for longer in the day than at night. When hungry in the morning they ate more of the easily digestible clover and in the evening they selected more grass which stays in the rumen longer.

"When you have day and night paddocks for dairy cows you may find yield responses by offering more clover in the day compared with night paddocks," he says.