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The effect of maturity on proportion and quality of morphological components of white clover grown under irrigation in northern Victoria

C.R. Stockdale and K.B. Kelly

Department of Agriculture Victoria, Kyabram Research Institute PMB 3010, Kyabram VIC 3620

The potential of white clover, Trifolium repens for animal production is very high. While white clover grows well under irrigation in northern Victoria, the proportions of its morphological components change markedly with maturity. We considered the quality of these components as they change in order to improve the grazing management of white clover.


White clover (cv. Haifa) herbage was harvested at weekly intervals for eight weeks after an initial defoliation in spring and autumn. Samples were sorted into components and analysed for in vitro digestibility and crude protein.

Results and discussion

There were major variations in the morphology of white clover, and the way it changed with time, in spring compared with autumn (Table 1). In particular, flowering was prolific in spring and almost non-existent in autumn. The quality of the plant components was relatively consistent with time at both periods of the year (Table 1) indicating that the variation in proportion of plant parts was likely to influence the quality of diet eaten by ruminants.

Table 1. Proportion (%), digestibility (DMD) and crude protein (CP) of leaf, stem and flowers of white clover in spring and autumn in northern Victoria (all as % of total dry matter). The balance was dead material.

In northern Victoria, white clover is mainly grown for dairy cows and often supplemented with feeds low in protein. In spring, white clover needs to be grazed intensively, and often, in order to keep the proportion of flowers low and that of leaf as high as possible. In autumn, the requirement for intensive management for best animal production is less important.

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