A study of our organic pasture: white and red clover

Common name: White and red clover.

Scientific name: Trifolium repens and Trifolium pratense.  

Why we use it: Clover was introduced from Britain in the early 1800’s and bees were brought in 1839 to help with its pollination.

White clover is a perennial forage legume and grows well on fertile soils. It has remarkable nitrogen-fixing abilities and helps the cows maintain milk production in late spring and early summer. Large and medium-leafed clovers are used in dairy pastures, as they’re more productive.

Red clover is actually more pink, or purple in colouring and has a hairy, dull foliage. It grows well on fertile, drier soils and makes good silage and hay. It’s slower to flower than white clover and usually lasts between two and four years, or up to seven given a longer grazing rotation. Its taproot suits dryer areas, but intensive grazing doesn’t make it thrive. 

Because we farm using organic principles, we don’t apply nitrogen fertiliser, such as urea. This means that clover is allowed to flourish and we have an over-abundance, compared to conventional farmers. Our last few summers have been wet, so we haven’t had to sow any clover seed. Additionally, pre-graze mowing (mowing the paddocks in summer), ahead of the cows grazing has allowed sunlight to reach the clover and has helped with its proliferation.