Field lab - Red clover and breeding ewes
It has long been felt by farmers that grazing breeding ewes on red clover swards six weeks either side of tupping will affect prolificacy and ultimately economic returns. This has been backed up by some research findings.
Home Farm’s manager David Wilson has heard of the link between phytoestrogens in red clover, breeding ewes and prolificacy, so keeps his ewes off clover swards around tupping. However, he has come across some other research that links red clover flowers with homeopathic treatments for menopausal women; the red clover boosting oestrogen levels. He wonders if the high phytoestrogen level is linked to the crop’s age and flowering.
The initial meeting took place on Wednesday 19 December. At this meeting the group agreed a set of dates for the follow up meetings - details to follow.
This field lab is being hosted by kind permission of HRH The Prince of Wales at Duchy Home Farm, Broadfield Farm, Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8SE.
Red clover is grown widely on organic farms around the UK due to its excellent feed value and ability to fix nitrogen in the absence of 'bagged' fertilizer. However, some studies have shown it to have a detrimental effect on the fertility of stock that graze it. This means that many farmers, especially those with sheep, exclude their animals from red clover pastures for six weeks either side of mating.
David would like to find out how he could use his clover pastures for his sheep around tupping as he wants to benefit from the high protein content of the forage and the positive effects that these should have on prolifacy.
If he can use a high energy forage as opposed to buying in or using his own cereals to supplement diets to ensure that ewes are in peak condition at tupping he will have a real financial impact on his business with high lamb numbers and lower feed costs.