Red clover has potential to boost production

28 Nov 2018

Including red clover in silage leys has the potential to boost dry matter production by more than two tonnes per hectare, per year, and increase nutritional quality in the clamp. So says Field Options’ Francis Dunne.

Speaking at AHDB’s ‘Quality Silage from Seed to Feed’ event, held at Longden Manor in Shropshire, he referenced local trials based on 30-day multi-cut silage systems and the performance of crops during dry periods in both 2017 and 2018 seasons. This highlighted the value of red clover in building resilience into forage production systems.

Top performer

“The mixtures that included red clover outperformed straight ryegrass leys, and grass and white clover leys, by between two and three tonnes of dry matter per hectare during the season. And around 60% of that was during the driest months of July and August,” he said.

More protein

“Also, as red clover is typically at around 20% crude protein, its impact within a mixture can raise the protein in the silage by between 2% and 3%. If crops are cut and ensiled correctly the result could be a 15% crude protein forage instead of 12% protein – and more of it.

“As well as being high in protein, red clover can have an ME similar to perennial ryegrass so, with the same proviso of best practice harvesting and ensiling, there is potential to optimise ME too.”

Potential gains

Mr Dunne put these potential gains in dry matter yield and quality in the context of the opportunity to improve performance from forage. “If we look at increased dry matter alone, an additional 0.5tDM/ha of forage of average quality (10.8MJ/kg ME) will mean an extra 5,400 MJ of energy in the clamp.

“That’s enough to produce 982 litres of milk per hectare, which even at a modest 26ppl is worth more than £250 per hectare. And these gains will increase when you then factor in higher protein and/or energy in the forage generated by shorter cutting intervals."