Managing red clover

Read how to reduce crown damage and manage red clover for silage.

Back to: Managing clover

How does management differ from white clover?

Red clover only grows from its crown, so the plant will die if this is damaged. The crown lies above ground, so it is crucial to protect this area of the plant.

Top tips to reduce crown damage

  • Height for all silage cuts is no lower than 7–8 cm
  • Avoid excess wheelings from heavy machinery
  • Grazing height of aftermath is maintained above 6 cm and the crop is overwintered at 4–6 cm
  • Poaching by animals is minimised

Red clover management for silage

  • Graze swards lightly in the autumn of the sowing year
  • For high-protein content, cut when clover is in the late bud stage, or in early bloom for lower protein content
  • Take two to three cuts (four maximum) at 6–8-week intervals after a first cut (15 May–2 June). This should yield 13–14 t DM/ha on fertile sites, or 10 t DM/ha on upland sites
  • Ensile at 30% DM to minimise wilting losses
  • Do not use a mower conditioner. Leave in wide swaths and wilt for up to 48 hours, turning the swath once. To reduce leaf shatter, do not ted
  • Avoid crown damage by not cutting too low – aim for 7–8 cm
  • Chop the crop
  • Graze autumn regrowth lightly to finish lambs or cattle
  • Do not apply nitrogen (N), except for establishment
  • Apply phosphate, potash and magnesium as recommended for pure grass swards. Clover is more responsive to potash than grass, so may benefit from a small application of potash at index 2–
  • Red clover is naturally more aerobically stable than grass, so good silage management will produce a good end product

Red clover management for grazing

Use aftermath to graze lambs or cattle. Compared with ryegrass, superior growth rates can be achieved from red clover. Avoid grazing in wet or damp conditions to limit bloat and reduce risk of poaching.

For red clover and grass swards, there may be some advantage to applying a small amount of nitrogen (up to 50 kg N/ha) in the early spring, if the grass appears to be nitrogen-deficient.

Lamb performance from grazed red clover or ryegrass

Lamb performance

Red clover


Growth rate (g/day)



Days to finish



Eye muscle depth (mm)



Subcutaneous fat depth (mm)



Cold carcase weight (kg)



Killing out (%)



Source: IBERS

Useful links

Read the Establishing and growing clover guide

Learn more about the Recommended Grass and Clover Lists

If you would like to order a hard copy of the Establishing and growing clover guide or Recommended Grass and Clover Lists, please contact or call 0247 799 0069.

The information in these web pages was sourced from Germinal, Grassland Development Centre (IBERS, University of Aberystwyth) and Charlie Morgan (GrassMaster Ltd).