24 July 1998

Clover swards give milk yields a boost

CLOVER swards increase cow yields by one-and-a-half litres a day compared with other swards, and bloat is not a concern.

That is what Staffs County Council tenants Mark and Elaina Gadsden, Coppice Farm, Penkridge, told the BGS tour, after their experience of including clover in reseeds for the past two years.

Before reseeding with clover and perennial ryegrass, they had used Italian ryegrass leys to improve grazing on the 19ha (48-acre) farm where they became tenants in 1992.

"With Italian ryegrass we had a good first cut but it wilted in hot summers." Forage shortages in summer were difficult to cope with, as the 30-cow herd calves in summer because they have no facilities for dry cows or calving in winter.

Swards including different large leafed white clover varieties and clover-compatible ryegrasses on a Kingshay Farming Trust trial had a clover content of about 20%. It was cut for silage in late May then grazed by youngstock.

"After silage, the regrowth was clover. Grass did not grow until after it rained," said Mr Gadsden. Then, the cows had grazed the field for a week, and in the 12 days since they were taken off, there was high quality regrowth.

There had been no bloat in the six-month-old calves or milking cows, which averaged up to 40 litres. Cows yielding over 20 litres had received concentrates, to a maximum of 9kg for a 40-litre cow, so had not gone out to grass hungry. The 7400-litre average herd produced 44% of the milk from forage.

Martin Hutchinson of Kingshay Farming Trust added that new varieties of clover – including Aran, Alice, AberHerald and Donna – were tolerant to 250-375kg/ha (200-300 units/acre) of nitrogen, and bloat was rare.

WHITECLOVER

&#8226 Boosts yield by 1.5 litres .

&#8226 New varieties nitrogen tolerant.

&#8226 Bloat is rare.