Agricultural value: No forage plant has been so important to agriculture as has Red Clover. This is due not only to its high feeding value, which is surpassed by few plants, but also to its service as a fertilizer and improver of soil texture. No other leguminous fodder plant is equal to it for these two purposes.
Fodder: Red Clover has its highest feeding value when in full bloom and should be cut for hay before the heads begin to turn brown. If cut late, the stems become woody, lose their palatability and the general value is considerably lessened. The quality of the hay depends to a great extent on the way it is cured. Careless handling causes the leaves to shatter. Exposure to rain or heavy dew discolours the hay, dispels its fine aroma and reduces its nutritive value. Over exposure to sunshine also reduces its feeding value. In curing Red Clover hay methods should therefore be employed by which the drying is done as much as possible by the wind.
Pasture: As a pasture plant, Red Clover is not surpassed by any other legume. It is relished by all kinds of farm animals. On account of the tenderness of the young plants and the necessity to have them start the winter in good condition, it is not advisable in the Prairie Provinces to pasture Red Clover the same year it is sown. In some parts of Ontario, where it may grow rather rank the latter part of the first year, the field is usually pastured; to what extent depends upon conditions. Grazing too late in the fall or pasturing too close by sheep is apt to reduce the succeeding crop. Grazing the second year may begin early in the spring and continue until late in the fall.
When cattle and sheep are turned into a field of Red Clover, there is always danger of bloating, especially if it is wet with dew and the animals start grazing on empty stomachs.
Sowing for hay and pasture: In Ontario Red Clover is always sown with a nurse crop. Tests at the experimental farms of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, particularly at Indian Head, indicate that in the Prairie Provinces a nurse crop should not be used. In a dry climate or on dry soils it acts as a robber rather than as a nurse in depriving the young plants of moisture. The result is that the plants are weak at the beginning of the winter and are more liable to be killed by the frost. When sown alone, ten to twelve pounds of good seed should be used to the acre.
Seed: Except in southwestern Ontario, Red Clover seed is only grown to a very limited extent in Canada. Whether or not a field