Looking out for subterranean clover

// Forage Cropping

Spring is the ideal time to be on the look-out for subterranean (sub) clover in hill country and dryland pastures and implement management strategies to increase the population of this powerhouse legume. 

image of sub clover in hand

Endemic in many areas, with the correct management sun-loving sub clover will grow a bank of high-quality feed in late winter and early spring which is ideal for pregnant and lactating ewes. Pre-weaning growth rates of over 300 gms/day are achievable on sub clover which helps maximise the weaning draft. The plant also helps ewes recover Body Condition going into summer and autumn.

 To determine whether there is enough sub clover in pastures to help drive stock performance, clover expert Dick Lucas recommends walking the paddock or block in early spring. If there is more than one clover plant every second step when walking uphill, then the correct management will help increase the population. If there is less than this, then it will be necessary to oversow the area in autumn.

To increase the population of resident sub, the paddock or block should be spelled for a minimum of two weeks (up to six weeks) after the sub clover plants have flowered in late September and October. This will allow seed set.

After spelling in spring, the area can initially be grazed with cattle to limit grass-seed production. Sheep should not be used as they will target the highly palatable sub clover runners and reduce clover seed production.

Over summer, the paddocks or blocks can be grazed as normal with the aim of reducing pasture mass to 700 kg DM/ha by the end of February. This open pasture will aid sub clover seed germination in autumn. 

Find out more

 For more information, see our Using Subterranean Clover factsheet (PDF, 349KB)