Red clover backing
RED clover could be the answer to growing a high protein forage crop in wetter areas, which are unable to grow lucerne successfully.
Modern varieties with some resistance to sclerotinia and eel worm also make it more attractive than it once was, according to Ian Wilkinson, managing director of Cotswold Seeds.
"Many producers recall the bad old days when pastures became clover sick through eel worm and sclerotinia, however, modern varieties are more resistant. But you should still allow a break of five years between red clover leys or you may run into problems."
Spring, rather than autumn-sown, leys do better, but those sowing in autumn should sow no later than mid-September to avoid slug problems, he advised.
A seed mixture of 7.5kg/ha (3kg/acre) of red clover and 22.5kg/ha (9kg/acre) will provide 40-50% red clover in the sward and works out at £75/ha (£30/acre). "More than 3kg/acre of clover will only be necessary if you sow late in autumn or have a difficult seed-bed."
For two-year leys he recommended using Italian ryegrass to take advantage of its high yield characteristics, but for longer leys, a hybrid ryegrass for greater persistency. "Use tetraploids as they are more open grasses, allowing clover to express itself fully in the sward."
While clover is suitable for most classes of livestock, caution is needed during tupping. "There is anecdotal evidence that the oestrogen content of red clover may have a negative effect on ewe fertility so avoid grazing pure red clover swards during tupping." *