An article on the development of clover by AgResearch published in November 2003 starts with following. “If there is one thing New Zealand couldn’t do without, it would have to be white clover.
While it doesn’t seem like an obvious one for the top 20 list of “essential survival items,” white clover-based pastures underpin most of New Zealand’s milk, meat and wool production in a quiet unassuming way.
While clover contributes around $3 billion annually to the New Zealand economy and each one per cent improvement in yield has been estimated to be worth more than $20 million.
White clover is integrated into pastures to improve nutritive value and animal intake rates, as well as provide low-cost nitrogen for pasture growth. It has also been a key in the development of New Zealand’s low cost livestock farming systems.
Without white clover, livestock production in New Zealand would depend solely on fertiliser nitrogen. This has obvious environmental consequences.”
Ten years on the question has to be asked. Why have the fertiliser policies pushed by the two major fertiliser companies and endorsed by the major advisory groups been based on the dependence on fertiliser nitrogen when it is well known that clovers suffer as a result?
One reason that has been forwarded so far is that clover flea and weevil have done such damage that the clover in pasture is incapable of fixing sufficient nitrogen for high performance farming.
Eco-Logic soil Improvement has an increasing number of properties nationwide that use DoloZest/CalciZest total nutrient programmes and produce, based on Overseer, permanent pastures growing up to 19.3 tonne of dry matter annually.
A recent farm walk on one of these properties was to examine the damage on some of the small clover plants in the sward. Under a magnifying glass eggs laid by insects could be seen, however the long strong-stemmed large leafed clover, some as tall us our redbands, were unaffected.
After an hour or so spent walking the property the farmer summed up the situation with the following statement. “The bugs can’t handle the big stuff,” and on the evidence of what we were seeing he was correct.
Bugs and disease perform the function of ensuring that weak plants do not breed making sure that the plants that do are capable of withstanding the pressure of high performance pastoral farming.
An article published within the last twelve months recommended farmers in the Canterbury region to apply nitrogen fertiliser as the clover flea and weevil had followed dairy farming to the district. It is highly unlikely that fleas and weevils know, or care, what animals are grazing the pastures they currently share. Their ability to flourish is due to an increase in the amount of clover weakened by current mainstream farming practises of which the regular application of fertiliser nitrogen plays a central role.
It doesn’t have to be the case and the change to a CalciZest based clover friendly nutrient programme that grows more total pasture with a more even spread of pasture throughout the year can be made seamlessly with a noticeable improvement in quality and animal performance within a month after implementation.
The most recent independent report, done for the 2011 – 12 season, showed the property monitored grew 30% more pasture and produced 38% more milksolids than district average. The cows on that property also ate 15.3kgDM to produce a kg of milk solids compared to 19.5kgDM for the district average, with an increase in profit of 38%.
For more information contact Peter on 0800 436 566