INCORPORATING white clover into ryegrass pastures has the potential to reduce costs, increase animal performance and improve environmental sustainability on Irish dairy farms.
This was the main message from the results of research given at an open day last week on the Teagasc Clonakilty Agricultural College research farm at Darrara, Clonakilty. Dr Pat Dillon Head of the Teagasc Animal & Grassland, Research and Innovation programme, said: ‘Clover has the potential to reduce nitrogen use, increase milk production per cow, and reduce nitrous oxide emissions. Over three years, a grass clover system receiving 150 kilograms of Nitrogen per hectare produced similar grass dry matter production per hectare as a ryegrass-only system receiving 250 kilograms of Nitrogen per hectare. Animal performance has been consistently high in grass clover systems at similar stocking rates.’
Hundreds of farmers attending the event could see the results of the research that has been undertaken in Clonakilty Agricultural College over the last three years. Brian McCarthy, Teagasc researcher, explained: ‘The research has focussed on the effect of perennial ryegrass ploidy and white clover inclusion on the performance of spring calving dairy production systems.
‘The potential of white clover to increase the performance of pasture-based dairy production systems and how to manage white clover was focused on. Perennial ryegrass ploidy did not affect milk or pasture dry matter production. However white clover inclusion had a significant effect.
‘Both milk and grass production were greater on the grass clover swards compared with grass-only swards. The experiment demonstrated the potential of white clover to improve the productivity of pasture based production systems in Ireland.’