Good Clover Bad Clover Project

Following feedback from a MacKillop Farm Management Group Productive Pastures for Sheep field day in September 2016, funding has been secured from MLA for a project ‘Good Clover, Bad Clover’ which will focus on upskilling producers on oestrogenic clover identification and the implementation of practices to improve lamb marking rates. The project will be run in partnership with AgKI.    To read more about the project click here

Good Clover Bad Clover
Following feedback from a MacKillop Farm Management Group Productive Pastures for Sheep field day in September
2016, funding has been secured from MLA for a project ‘Good Clover, Bad Clover’ which will focus on upskilling
producers on oestrogenic clover identification and the implementation of practices to improve lamb marking rates.
The project will be run in partnership with AgKI.

Background:
Around the 1960’s, oestrogenic clover was a major issue on many properties and resulted in severely low lambing
percentages, significant research was undertaken at the time regarding fertility issues in ewes, and also on wethers
which can appear to lactate when grazing oestrogenic clovers. Despite the extensive research undertaken over
those earlier years, it is now very difficult to find up to date, farmer friendly information on the issue and how to
address it. With a new generation of producers, lessons learnt from earlier research and extension have been
largely forgotten and skills lost in managing the issue.

Over the years, the focus on oestrogenic clovers (or ‘bad’ clovers) has reduced and it is highly likely that high levels
of oestrogenic clovers in pastures could be resulting in reduced lambing percentages and a higher than necessary
number of dry ewes. Lambing percentage is a key profit driver for prime lamb enterprises, however the variation in
lambs scanned and lambs marked is enormous. Whilst management via feed and ewe condition score are key
factors influencing lambing percentages, there appears to be ‘other’ issues contributing to lower than expected
lambing percentages in these areas.

The Project:
Oestrogenic clovers have recently been identified in pastures on properties in the South East and Kangaroo Island as
well as in the Barossa, Adelaide Hills and lower Eyre Peninsula. It is suspected that there has been a slow buildup of
oestrogenic clovers given the recent dry years (particularly in the South East), which have favoured these clovers. The
oestrogenic clovers tend to be hard seeded, short season varieties and are less palatable than many of the nonoestrogenic (‘good’ clover) varieties. This project will aim to quantify the issue of oestrogenic clover in the South East
and Kangaroo Island and up skill producers in the identification of oestrogenic clover species.

MFMG will undertake a preliminary benchmarking survey of reproductive performance. Pasture assessments will be
undertaken in Spring on focus farms to establish whether oestrogenic clover may be a contributing factor to poor
conception rates and lamb marking rates. Property management plans will be developed by each producer. These
plans will include the identification and application of strategies to reduce or eliminate issues associated with
oestrogenic clovers. The aim being to upskill producers in identifying the bad clovers and implementation of
practices that will increase ‘scanned in lamb’ numbers, increase marking rate and reduce the number of dry ewes

Natural Resources South East have put out a fact sheet on oestrogenic clovers that can be found here

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