Why use red clover?

Find out the benefits of using red clover in your system, including feed value and nitrogen fixation.

Back to: Red clover

Nitrogen fixation

Like white clover, bacteria in the nodules on red clover roots convert nitrogen (N) from the air into nitrates. These stored nitrates are released to the companion plants and following crops through root decay and the new roots and nodules that grow to replace them.

Red clover tends to fix between 150 and 250 kg N/ha per year.

High yields

Red clover/ryegrass swards are capable of producing 10–14 t DM/ha per year.

Break crop

Red clover has considerable benefits as a break crop in mixed farming situations, thanks to its ability to improve soil structure and soil nitrogen status.

Organic production

Red clover is a key forage and soil fertility-building crop for organic farms.

Feed value

Protein content is particularly high in red clover and is protected, so less protein is lost from silage.

Nutritional value of average grass and red clover silage

Nutritional value

Average grass silage

Average red clover silage

Dry matter (%)



D-value (%)



Metabolisable energy (ME, MJ/kg DM)



Crude protein (%)






Ammonia (% N of total N)



Source: Adapted from ADAS and IBERS

Less protein breakdown of red clover silage is a result of the action of the enzyme polyphenoloxidase (PPO), which increases the quality of the protein. Depending on the laboratory method used, feed value is often greater than it appears in silage analysis. The use of wet chemistry is the most accurate method of determining protein content.

Useful links

Drought-busters for summer feed security

Read the Establishing and growing clover guide

If you would like to order a hard copy of the Establishing and growing clover guide, please contact publications@ahdb.org.uk 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).