How red clover can save money and improve lamb performance

Introducing red clover into swards could be the solution to minimising purchased feeds and boosting lamb performance and quality.

Red clover fixes substantial quantities of nitrogen significantly increasing the feed value to home-grown forage as well as improving soil structure, says EBLEX beef and sheep scientist Liz Genever.

“Trials at Aberystwyth have shown improvemnts of more than 25% in the daily growth rate of weaned lambs grazing red clover aftermaths rather than ryegrass swards, leading to more rapid finishing,” explains Dr Genever.

At the same time, the red clover grazing also increased muscle depth, cold carcass weight and killing out percentage.”

And although red clover has historically been associated with ewe fertility concerns, Dr Genever stresses that ewe grazing should only be avoided in the six weeks before and after tupping.

“For the rest of the year, with silage and other stock, red clover grown in 3-4 year leys can make a major contribution to increasing economic and environmental productivity.”

For the best results, Dr Genever recommends:

  • Growing modern varieties with hybrid or intermediate heading perennial ryegrasses;
  • Sowing through to late July in a warm soil with a pH of 5-6.5 and P and K indices of 2;
  • Applying no nitrogen but sufficient P and K to maintain soil indices of 2 or more;
  • Cutting at 7-8 cm and minimising wheelings to avoid crown damage;
  • Grazing down to a minimum of 6 cm and preventing poaching to avoid crown damage;
  • Ensiling at no more than 30% DM to minimise field losses; and,
  • Managing grazing stock access with care to avoid bloat problems.