The Irish Grassland Association (IGA) began its Dairy Summer Tour on the farm of Kevin Moran. In the last few years Kevin has focused on reducing his nitrogen (N) fertiliser inputs by incorporating clover into his swards.

Kevin always had an ambition to farm full-time, but his home farm in Claremorris Co. Mayo was not suitable to dairy farming.

Unlike some people in school, Kevin knew what he wanted to do. So, in 2013 he leased the farm near Caherlistrane, Co. Galway from his uncle Joe.

He began his dairy farming journey with 72 cows on a land base of 40ha. He now farms a total of 105ha and milks 270 mainly crossbred cows.

In 2019, Kevin invested in a 44-bail rotary parlour for the farm with new housing so there is one cubicle/cow. He also installed an underpass.


Kevin runs a simple system with only one full-time labour unit (himself) and a number of relief milkers.

Kevin’s aim is to produce 1kg of milk solids (ms) from each 1kg of ration fed. He wants a cow that is producing her body weight in milk solids, but has no issue feeding cows extra when they require it.

Only milking and calving is done on the farm, with most of the machinery work completed by contractors.

When calves are born they are moved to a yard down the road. They are kept here until they are weaned, at which point they move to Kevin’s brother farm to be contract reared.

Image source: IGA


Speaking at the online IGA event, Kevin explained how the farm has been completely reseeded since 2013 and clover was not originally incorporated.

This is something Kevin admits got wrong and puts it down to a lack of knowledge stating: “Clover not only offers environmental advantages to farmers, but also a financial return.

“The less chemical fertiliser I use lowers my carbon emission/L of milk and is better for my bank balance.

“The pros out weigh the cons for clover inclusion in swards, and not incorporating clover earlier was a real missed opportunity.”

Commenting on increase production expected from cows by clover he said: “I am not banking on it. I am expecting to grow the same amount of grass from less chemical nitrogen (N) and as the herd matures their production will increase.”

Establishing clover

Speaking about what was required to establish clover on the farm, Kevin stated: ”I have found you need a soil pH of 6.4. You also need phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) indexes to be three.

”I incorporate clover into sward by over-sowing in April and May at rate of 2kg/ac.

”I am then applying watery slurry and a bag/ac of gran lime and have achieved good results.

”When selecting paddocks to over-sow. I select ones that will not be reseeded in the next three years and they must have correct pH and soil indexes.

”It must also have no weeds and if there [are] weeds, I fix them first and then establish clover the following year.”

Image source: IGA

Early Management

Kevin spoke about how he manages swards after he has over sown them with clover.

He said: ”The management of the sward after over-sowing is important. You need sunlight to reach bottom of sward to help with tillering.

”So, pre-grazing cover is not allowed get over 1,100kg of DM/ha for the first five to six grazings. Paddocks with clover get 18-6-12 or watery slurry, with the rest of the farm getting protected urea.

“A mistake I made was trying to do too much at one time; all these paddocks required the same management at the same time.

“You need to be more strategic about the number of paddocks you do at the same time.”


The first year after a paddock has been over-sown with clover, Kevin does not cut N application in year one as it is only getting established. Kevin feels it takes 12 months for the clover to become established.

He said: “It is important that the sward receives a consistent application of P and K after at least the first five grazings.

“In year two, from start of grazing to early May, the paddocks are treated the same as the rest of the farm. From mid-May onwards, a half rate of N is applied and it is working for me.”

Application rate will depend on rotation length, for a 21-day rotation 10.5 units of nitrogen is applied on clover swards.

Kevin avoids cutting silage in the first silage season from clover paddocks, he aims to graze these paddocks to encourage tillering.

In the second season, Kevin treats them no differently than to non clover paddocks and will mow them to remove dung paddocks and reset swards.

Image source: IGA

10 year plan

Commenting on the plan for farm for the next 10 years, Kevin stated: “The plan moving forward is to continue over-sowing and incorporating clover into paddocks when reseeding.

“Keeping the farm at 25% clover content will be an continuing management practice similar to maintaining soil indexes.

“For the farm in general, I want to keep the farm as labour efficient as possible. While becoming more environmentally sustainable, my aim is to have a greenhouse gas [GHG] emission of 0 to 0.5kg/L of milk.”