White clover is fundamentally important in a mixed pasture sward to both fix atmospheric nitrogen and to boost all aspects of animal production.
Increasing the proportion of white clover in pasture by following a fertiliser regime based on the CloverZone® programme will ensure the maximum fixation of atmospheric nitrogen and increase the nutritive value of pastures.
Fertco’s CloverZone® programme is a soil, plant testing and reporting tool that combines a soil management plan and fertiliser programme designed around the optimum condition to maximise clover growth. To grow high-yielding quality clover, soils need to be in optimal condition, from the chemical levels (nutrients) to its physicality and biology. The CloverZone® programme monitors 16 essential nutrients through soil and herbage tests and a Visual Soil Assessment (VSA) which gauges the soil’s physical and biological health.
Animals may increase the proportion of clover in their diet by grazing selectively. The ‘Do cattle exhibit a preference for white clover?’ paper, printed in the Agronomy Society of New Zealand Special Publication No. 11, reports on an experiment which demonstrated what cattle did eat when given a choice between monocultures of ryegrass and white clover. The trial consisted of a group of 10 young dairy heifers grazing on one-hectare monocultures of both ryegrass and white clover. Animals were observed on the time spent grazing at each species – at three different times of the year, February, May and December.
At each grazing, the cattle choose a mixed diet of ryegrass and white clover, but their preference for white clover changed within the season. In February they spent about 65% of grazing time on white clover and 35% eating ryegrass. In December the preference for white clover dropped to 49% and 51% for ryegrass, and in May it was 47% for white clover and 53% rye grass. The December and May results were not significantly different from neutrality (50:50).
The report concluded that spatial separation of pasture species, which removes the major physical constraints to selective grazing, has shown that heifers select a diet which ranges from 50% to 65% white clover.
It’s clear that increasing the availability of white clover to grazing animals will improve liveweight gain and milk production because of the greater nutritional quality of white clover compared to rye grass. It’s also clear that ensuring there is enough clover content in a species mix to meet animal preferences is a challenge ... that’s where Fertco’s CloverZone® programme can help with the overall aim, no matter the stock class or the system being run, the more clover the better. Ensuring sufficient white clover is available to stock when they preferentially seek it out can be achieved by following a fertiliser regime based on the CloverZone® programme