Measurements of pasture appearance, white clover leaf and stolon mass, stolon water potential, and percentage clover cover in the sward were made for grazed dairy pastures at Ellinbank, West Gippsland, Victoria, during the hot, dry month of February 1997. The perennial ryegrass–white clover-based pastures were in rotationally grazed paddocks from a large farmlet experiment and had received different levels of phosphorus fertiliser (0 or 280 kg P/ha over an 18-month period), and were being grazed with 2 or 3 cows/ha for the no-phosphorus, or 3 or 4 cows for the high-phosphorus paddocks. Further measurements of white clover composition in the pasture swards were made in April, following autumn rain. There were marked differences in white clover (i.e. more yellow, flaccid and desiccated plants with fewer leaves) and pasture appearance (higher frequency of patchy, weedy, poorly utilised areas) in the no-phosphorus, compared with the high-phosphorus treated pastures with the same stocking rate of 3 cows/ha. Also, the high-phosphorus paddocks had a greater white clover percentage than the low-phosphorus paddocks in February with mean percentages of 13.8 and 7.8% respectively. Following rains in March and April, the mean percentage clover cover in high-phosphorus paddocks had increased substantially by 30 April 1997 to 30.6% whereas there was a small improvement in mean clover content in the low-phosphorus paddocks (12.3%). The white clover plants in the high-phosphorus paddocks had heavier stolons, larger leaves and, for the medium stocking rate (3 cows/ha), they appeared to have more leaves per cm of stolon. The findings support previous studies which have highlighted how high-phosphorus application rates can improve the performance of repeatedly defoliated white clover plants during dry periods.