Managing white clover for productive and profitable sheep farming in Southland


  • J.P.J. Eerens
  • D.L. Ryan



White clover is often listed as one of the factors contributing to profitable pastoral farming in New Zealand. The positive aspects of white clover have been presented in a balanced manner in publications by scientists, environmentalists and farmers able to exploit these positive aspects. Increasingly, pastures contain sub-optimal levels of clover, as a result of pasture management that is detrimental to clover, including the increasing use of fertiliser nitrogen. In some regions of New Zealand, farmers can legitimately point to pests such as the clover root weevil and factors such as the ryegrass endophyte as causing restrictions in clover production, but this is less the case in Southland. Environmental conditions in Southland are well suited for ryegrass-white clover pastures. Wellmanaged ryegrass-white clover pastures containing the best regional cultivars can achieve high financial returns. A number of trials at the Gore Research Station are reviewed; they demonstrated that on mixed ryegrass-white clover swards farmers can produce nearly 25% more dry matter, 40% more carcass weight and 25% more wool than on pastures with ryegrass alone receiving 270 kg N/ha/year. The yield advantage would have been greater still if they were compared with typical Southland pastures. Not only was 180 kg more carcass and 17 kg more wool produced per hectare on mixed swards, but nitrogen fixation by clover produced more than $300 worth of nitrogen per hectare. The yield advantage achievable from the ryegrass-white clover swards requires specific pasture management, particularly in spring- summer and the use of adapted white clover cultivars. Keywords: cultivars, Lolium perenne, nitrogen, pasture production, perennial ryegrass, set stocking, Trifolium repens, white clover, wool







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