Eight benefits of red clover

Livestock farmers can reap the benefits of red clover in various ways. The Louis Bolk Institute conducted research into the effects of red clover in meadows. Based on the results of this research, Barenbrug has drawn up a list of the benefits. 

1. Meadows with grass-red clover mixtures are more productive than meadows with pure grass

Meadows with grass-red clover produce at least 1 tonne more of dry matter per hectare than pure grass when fertilised according to current fertilisation standards (max. 250 kg active N).

2. Grass-red clover is easy to manage

Management of a red clover-grass meadow is almost the same as managing a meadow with pure grass. The only differences between a grass-red clover meadow and a grass meadow are:

  • No chemical fertiliser
  • Less tedding after cutting
  • Limited grazing

3. Grass-red clover is less sensitive to drought

Red clover (with taproot) can withstand drought well. For drought-prone areas, it is advisable to choose drought-resistant types of grass. Otherwise, almost all the grass will have disappeared after a dry period and production will be below expectations.

4. Grass-red clover is already profitable in the short term

The net energy for milk production (NEmilk) yield of meadows with grass and red clover is equal to or higher than that of pure grass, even though the costs for fertiliser or irrigation are zero or virtually zero. The protein content is usually also higher. The short-term benefit of grass-clover can exceed €100 per hectare. This does depend on no manure surplus arising, because of the associated costs of manure disposal.

5. The benefits of grass-clover increase over time

In the longer term, grass-clover provides even more benefits: soil life and the soil structure improve, and soil fertility increases (e.g. higher capacity to supply nitrogen, which means that maize grown on cracked grass-clover land yields approximately 10% more).


                                                                   Effect of clover mainly visible in the longer term: compare maize growth

                                             After 3 years of grass                                                                                          After 3 years of grass-clover 

6. Grass-clover is less sensitive to crown rust

Perennial ryegrass often suffers from crown rust in late summer. Even varieties with considerable resistance can suffer from crown rust in poor conditions (wet/hot weather after grass production has come under stress). The nitrogen supply to the grass in a grass-clover meadow is much more gradual (less stress), so crown rust is rarely a problem.

7. Grass-clover is good for bees

From the end of June to August, there is often little food for flower-visiting insects such as bees and bumblebees. Even with regular cutting, clover often blooms during this period, providing a welcome source of food for these beneficial insects.

8. Grass-clover improves the fatty acid composition of milk

Clover, and especially red clover, has a very positive effect on the content of polyunsaturated fatty acids in milk.