Ireland is a country that, more than anywhere else feels the softening influence of the Gulf Stream, which brings warming waters from the Gulf of Mexico in northern Europe. Abundant rainfall is the most obvious evidence of this and the result is a growing season longer than anywhere else in Europe, making green pastures the mainstay of Irish agriculture.
Our grassland ranges from old pastures of diverse botanical composition (perennial ryegrass, rough-stalked meadow grass, smooth stalked meadow grass, tall fescue, meadow fescue, timothy, cocksfoot, sweet vernal, meadow foxtail, crested dogstail, Yorkshire fog and bent grasses; white clover, red clover; and non-legume forbs such as plantain, yarrow, buttercup, docks, sorrel, etc.) to newer pastures overwhelmingly dominated by perennial ryegrass but with the occasional presence of white clover.
Most grassland has animal manure recycling nutrients to the plants – either directly by grazing animals or later by mechanically spread manure manure accumulated from housed livestock.
The main benefits of white clover are:
- It can take nitrogen gas from air and change it to a form available to be used by grass and clover for growth – similar effect as applying inorganic nitrogen fertilizer
- It has a high feeding value and livestock find it very palatable.
Well managed Irish grassland provides livestock with most of their requirements for energy, protein, minerals and vitamins during the grazing season, as well as providing their forage needs for the winter.