Fall in love with red clover | Business

As Valentine’s Day approaches, love is in the air.

This time of year should also spark feelings for a popular pasture management technique – gel seeding of forage legumes.

Freeze seeding is the scattering of small-seeded forage legumes on top of turf in pastures and hay fields in late winter. The theory is that freezing and thawing of the soil, which is common at this time of year, will cause the soil to heave and incorporate the seed 1/8 to ¼ inch below the soil surface, which is the ideal seeding depth for small seed legumes.

One of the most common species included in gel seeding programs is clover. While Ladino clover is usually the clover of choice, Jimmy Henning, forage specialist for the University of Kentucky, recently shared some helpful information on why red clover should always be included in a pasture system.

Clover has been cool in Kentucky for a long time. Clover has long been known to benefit ruminant producers due to its high yields, biological nitrogen fixation, summer production, and dilution of the negative effects of tall fescue.

New research from the USDA-ARS Animal Production Research Unit at the UK College of Agriculture, Food and the Environment adds even more reasons to love red clover.

Red clover directly counteracts the vasoconstriction caused by the toxic tall fescue endophyte. The constriction of outer blood vessels makes ruminants much less able to regulate their body temperature, causing heat stress in summer and cold stress in winter. Red clover has been found to contain a natural compound that causes these constricted blood vessels to dilate, restoring blood flow and relieving heat stress. These compounds, called isoflavones, are also present in white clover and alfalfa, but at lower levels than red clover.

Surprisingly, small amounts of red clover in the diet have significant effects. Research by the USDA-ARS Group found that pastures overseeded with 15% and 30% red clover—or supplemented with red clover hay—improved growth in steers and softened the outer blood vessels of grazing steers. toxic tall fescue. More importantly, other studies have shown that symptoms of toxic fescue are lessened by a mineral diet containing 20% ​​ground red clover leaves.

Could red clover be the “quick fix” for toxic fescue we’ve been looking for? Of course it seems to me.

Adding clover to toxic tall fescue pastures has long been known to improve conception rates in cattle. Isoflavones are also known to be estrogen-like compounds (phytoestrogens), which can suppress reproduction when fed at high levels, especially in sheep.

USDA-ARS scientist Brittany Harlowe began studying the effects of high levels of red clover on reproductive output in cattle. His preliminary results revealed that reproductive efficiency was not suppressed in heifers fed a mineral containing 20% ​​red clover compared to a control without red clover. Heifers fed the red clover mineral shed their winter coat better and experienced less heat stress in hot, humid weather than those fed the non-red clover mineral.

Red clover improves rumen fermentation. Rumen microorganisms do magical things, like converting forage fibers into steak. One of the things you would change in the rumen if you could is how microorganisms digest forage protein. Some rumen microorganisms excessively break down forage proteins and release ammonia. Red clover suppresses some of the rumen bacteria that are particularly active in breaking down forage proteins. This allows more forage protein to flow intact from the rumen, improving animal performance.

Better than alfalfa? Alfalfa has long been known as the queen of forage crops for its ability to produce high yields and high animal performance. Red clover has certain qualities that in some ways make it superior to alfalfa.

Before you burn me at the stake for this fodder heresy, listen to me. Both of these legumes are highly digestible, but alfalfa as it matures tends to accumulate more lignin associated with plant fiber than red clover. Lignin in mature forages reduces fiber digestibility. The low lignin content of red clover gives it an energy advantage.

With red clover, you get all of these benefits plus free nitrogen from the rhizobium bacteria embedded in the root nodules.

Remember that red and white clover can be easily introduced into tall fescue pastures by overseeding now.

For more information on frost seeding clover, type “frost seeding uky” into your internet browser or go to grazer.ca.uky.edu/content/frost-seeding.

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