13 November 1998

Red clover silage is a cost-cutter

FEEDING red clover silage in a total mixed winter ration to dairy cows can cut protein costs by 10p/cow/day, delegates attending the MDC meeting were told.

According to farm manager Ian Sanday, red clover/Italian ryegrass swards have been part of the rotation at Rodbaston for two years and provide a valuable winter forage with a crude protein of 17%.

First years growth was phenomenal, says Mr Sanday. But care is needed to get a good establishment and harvest.

Although ADAS figures suggest red clover can provide 150kg-200kg (120-160 units/acre) N a year, it needs nitrogen to establish, said Mr Sanday. However, its demand is lower than that of the host grass sward. To avoid conflict, producers could consider drilling clover into an established grass sward.

"Fertiliser costs are £110/ha less compared with Italian ryegrass swards without red clover," he said.

Calculations by Mr Sanday suggest a good red clover/Italian ryegrass silage, with a crude protein of more than 17% can save 10p/cow/day in protein costs for cows giving 30 litres of milk, equivalent to £1440 saving for an 80-cow herd over a 100-day winter.

"Another benefit of clover is its higher protein later in the season when grass protein falls away."

Producers at the meeting were concerned about bloat risks. The answer, according to Axients Andrew Connah, is to either buffer feed or offer grass swards to cows before allowing access to red clover swards so they dont gorge themselves.