Spring management to increase sub clover content

Dryland farmers looking to increase the subterranean clover content in their pastures should be thinking about shutting up paddocks within the next couple of weeks to allow seed-set.
Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s General Manager South Island John Ladley says subterranean (sub) clover flowers are apparent in pastures at this time of the year, so it is a good time for farmers to assess how much of this valuable legume is in their swards and consider shutting areas up to allow re-seeding to occur.

He says as a rule of thumb, if there is more than one clover plant every second step when walking uphill, then the correct management will increase the population.

If there is less than this, then farmers should consider over-sowing with sub clover next autumn.

But in this spring period, farmers wanting to build sub clover content, should avoid grazing targeted areas below 1200 kg DM/ha and then should allow the sub clover plants to set-seed by shutting sheep out of the area for a couple of weeks at least.

John says after spelling, the area should be grazed with cattle to limit grass-seed production.

“It is important not to use sheep as they will actively seek out sub clover runners, reducing seed production.”

Over summer, the area can be grazed as normal with the aim of reducing pasture covers to 700kg DM/ha by the end of February.

This open pasture will aid sub clover seed germination.

After sufficient autumn rain, sub clover seedlings will appear and the area should be closed off to stock until the sub clover plants reach the trifoliate (3) leaf stage.

Over late autumn and early winter, it should only be grazed by cattle until the plants are well established.

It can then be used in late winter and spring as a valuable, high quality feed for lambing ewes, and as sub clover fixes nitrogen, the plant will also increase the palatability of companion grasses.

For more information about sub clover management go to https://beeflambnz.com/knowledge-hub/PDF/grazing-management-encourage-sub-clover-dryland-pastures.pdf