The potential to include red clover, in tandem with hybrid ryegrass varieties, within a silage sward has been highlighted by Co. Antrim suckler beef farmer. Alastair McNeilly.

Last year saw him establish a red clover mixed sward on the farm. And he has been very pleased with the results achieved to date.

“The swards are generating an average output of 13t of DM/ha,” Alastair explained.

 “Last year, the clover area was cut four times and then grazed thereafter. We did not go in with a tedder after mowing.

“The cut forage was allowed to wilt for 24 hours and then baled. I have tried to ensure that the clover has been allowed to flower at least once, both in 2021 and again this year.

“No doubt, the clover will start to die back over the next year or so. But the scope to use more of it on this farm is obvious. I have also found that a mixed clover/ryegrass sward is very responsive to added slurry,” he added.

Red clover success

But the proof of the pudding is always in the eating.

“During the middle of last year’s drought, I had no option but to feed the clover bales to the bullocks that had been housed due to a shortage of grazed grass across the farm at that time,” Alastair continued.

“It was rocket fuel. The cattle were fed the mixed clover grass silage plus 2kg of meal per head per day. They managed to achieve 1.2kg of liveweight gain on a daily basis.”

The McNeilly family recently hosted members of the British Grassland Society (BGS). The event included an overview of the business plus an extensive farm walk.

Alastair manages a spring-calving suckler herd of 85 cows over 145ac with all male progeny finished as steers. He keeps his own replacements and aims for them to calve down at 24-months of age.

Any females unsuitable for breeding are also finished. His cattle are a mixture of Limousin, Angus, Shorthorn and Simmental genetics.

Alastair operates a rotational paddock grazing system with weekly grass measurements taken using a plate metre.

The addition of more grazing paddocks has allowed him to increase his stocking rate significantly over recent years.

Males are sold, for the most part, on a deadweight basis. Heifers not used for breeding are also sold finished.

Two broiler units, housing 60,000 chickens, also feature within the business. All of the chicken litter is exported off the farm.