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Topics : Species and Forage Variety Trials : Species Fact Sheets : Red Clover

Species: Red Clover

Additional red clover information via the Forage Information System (FIS)

Red Clover Harvest Management

Red clover quality is comparable to that of alfalfa under similar harvest schedules. However, intake by the consuming animal is generally greater for alfalfa than red clover. Red clover quality does not decline as rapidly with maturity as does alfalfa quality. This provides a longer time period over which high quality forage can be harvested.

Spring-seeded red clover can be harvested three times during the seeding year if growing conditions are favorable. This more aggressive harvest management in the seeding year than has traditionally been implemented provides greater forage and nutrient yields and has not negatively effected yield in the year after establishment. In addition, the third harvest during early September will help maintain better stands the following harvest season. Initial harvest 60-70 days after seeding and subsequent harvest on a 30-35 day interval will generally allow for three harvests during the seeding year.

Established red clover stands should be harvested at prebloom or early bloom. This harvest timing is a compromise between red clover yield and quality. Traditionally, 3 annual harvest are made in most of Pennsylvania. However, newer red clover varieties may tolerate 3 harvests during the summer and an additional fall harvest. The fall harvest should be made only if adequate herbage is present to offset the cost of harvesting. This harvest schedule will not allow red clover to reseed itself but will minimize the occurance of black patch disease and optimize yield and quality.

Red clover silage, if properly harvested and stored, provides a high quality forage. However, red clover is more difficult to cure for hay than other legumes. Establishing with a forage grass will decrease the curing time of red clover. The use of chemical drying agents and hay preservatives may make it possible to successfully make red clover hay under Pennsylvania's rainy conditions.

Additional and more detailed information on red clover harvest management is available.