However, red clover, normally lasts only two to three years. The highest yields usually are obtained in the second year of production. Proper cutting management can help improve yields and persistence of red clover.
Harvesting Red Clover During the Establishment Year
It is important to harvest red clover before full-bloom stage during the establishment year. If red clover is allowed to reach such a late stage, there is often a reduction in stand and yield the following year. Apparently, crown tillers that develop into floral stems during the first summer deplete energy reserves and reduce the ability of the plant to survive the winter.
Red clover that is spring seeded without a companion crop can usually be harvested twice in the year of establishment, provided that weeds are controlled. Some producers are taking three cuts during the year of establishment, but this requires high soil fertility and favorable weather conditions. The first cutting should be made before mid bloom. A second removal can usually be made sometime in early August. If a third cut is to be taken, it should be done by mid-September.
Red clover that is seeded with a companion crop can usually be harvested only once during the establishment year, between mid-August and mid-September.
Harvesting Established Red Clover Stand
The first harvest of red clover should be made when the field is at early bloom. Later cuttings can be made at late bud or early bloom. During hot and dry weather, red clover growth slows down and flowering may occur on short, stunted plants. Cutting during these stressful periods can weaken red clover plants and cause stand reductions. If feed is badly needed, these stands can be lightly grazed. If there is good fall growth, an additional harvest can be made in the fall.