Production of high-quality grazing forage in pasture-based dairy systems is important in ensuring high productivity. Incorporating white clover in the grasslands is significant in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and costs associated with fertiliser use.


White clover is a leguminous plant that has nitrogen fixation capabilities thus reducing the chemical fertiliser requirements in grasslands. White clover is suitable for grazing and persists for up to 10 years under proper management.

Why should I Increase clover content in a dairy paddock?

Grasslands with at least 25% clover have the following benefits.

  • Increased dry matter production.
  • Reduced chemical nitrogen fertiliser use. 
  • Increased dry matter intake and milk solids production.
  • Increased farm profit.
  • Compliance with policy.

The following video provides an overview of including white clover in grasslands.

Farm Zero C – Stephen Buttimer discusses white clover

How do I include white clover in my grassland?

  • White clover can be established by either oversowing or reseeding.  
  • Sow in moist soil conditions in highly fertile soil and pH of 6.3. When reseeding, broadcasting is highly recommended. 
  • Mix the white clover seed with grass seed and compound fertiliser and sow immediately to ensure even spread.

The following video provides details on oversowing white clover. 

  • For grazing management, ensure a pre-grazing herbage mass of 1300-1600kg DM/ha and a post-grazing sward height of 4cm (50kgDM/ha).
  • Avoid overgrazing and winter damage.

The following video provides details on the management of established grass-white clover swards.

More on white clover establishment and  management

Introducing white clover

Managing clover

Economic and Environmental Benefits

Incorporating white clover reduces the demand for chemical nitrogen fertiliser. The Table below shows the annual savings and reduction of emissions for a typical 31-ha farm under different scenarios.

Net savings and emission reduction from grass-clover swards


  Scenario 1
Grass only
Scenario 2
Grass- clover (25% of the area)
Scenario 3
Grass-clover (50% of the area)
Scenario 4
Grass-clover (100% of the area)
Grazing area(ha) 36 36 36 36
Average nitrogen fertiliser used  (kg/ha) 220 202.5 185 150
Fertiliser savings (€) 1021 2041 4082
Extra reseeding costs (€) -252 -504 -1008
Net savings/farm(€) 769 1537 3074
Net savings/ha(€) 21 43 85
Environmental impact        
Total Emissions 
(kg CO2-eq / kg FPCM)
0.960 0.951 0.943 0.926
Reduction in emissions (%) 0.94 1.77 3.54
kgCO2-eq /kg FPCM is the carbon footprint per kilogram of Fat and Protein Corrected milk
The May 2023 average  fertiliser prices of   €520/t  for CAN and  €602/t  for Urea were used (
Net savings/ cost are the savings or costs per year for the farm


Research  at Farm Zero C

White clover is being incorporated into swards on the farm through full reseeding and over-sowing to reduce chemical fertiliser use. Clover is also included as a part of Multi-Species Swards (MSS) at FZC. The FZC project intends to increase the area under grass-clover swards every year and currently approximately 60% of the grazing area has adequate clover.  

Other Research

Previous research in Ireland has highlighted the following key findings.

  • The inclusion of white clover in Perennial RyeGrass (PRG) increases dry matter production and reduces nitrogen fertilizer use (Moloney et al., 2021). 
  • At > 25% white clover inclusion, dry matter intake increased by 1.5 kg DM/cow/day, while milk solids production increased by approximately 30 kg MS/cow (Egan et al., 2018). 
  • The PRGs-clover swards reduced methane emission intensity by 12% (Smith et al., 2021).

Links to more research 

Introducing white clover into existing swards and getting the variety of choices right

Managing clover

 The effect of perennial ryegrass ploidy and white clover inclusion on milk production of dairy cows

White clover fact sheet


Including white clover as a strategy is important to meet the regulations listed below.

European green deal 

Farm to fork strategy

The Nitrates and water directive

The Nitrates Derogation– For derogation farmers, all new grass reseeds on the grassland farm shall incorporate at least 1.5 kg/ha of naked clover seed or at least 2.5 kg/ha of pelleted clover.

The Ag Climatise Roadmap 2021 The inclusion of white clover in grasslands supports the following actions of the roadmap to climate-neutral agriculture.

  •  “Action 1: Reduce chemical nitrogen fertilizer use by 40% by 2030.”
  • “Action 4: Maximise production of grazed grass.”


Farmers can easily purchase white clover seeds from their local merchants and cooperatives.