Red Clover: Antibiotic Alternative for Cattle

This article comes to us from Sandra Avant, at the ARS Office of Communications and the May issue of Ag Research Magazine. A compound found in a common forage plant may help to reduce use of growth-promoting antibiotics in cattle, goats, sheep, and other ruminants. At the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Forage-Animal Production Research Unit (FAPRU) in Lexington, Kentucky, scientists discovered a natural antimicrobial compound, biochanin A, in red clover. They found that biochanin A can inhibit and kill a group of “protein-wasting” bacteria typically treated with antibiotics. Ruminants are unique in that they have an upper digestive system that consists of four compartments, says FAPRU microbiologist Michael Flythe. The largest compartment, the rumen, contains many types of helpful bacteria, such as those that break down fiber and allow animals to get energy from grass or hay. But other types, such as hyper ammonia-producing bacteria (HAB), are referred to as “wasteful” because they digest protein and convert it into ammonia. “When the bacteria ferment protein, it reduces protein available to the animal,” Flythe says. “And these wasteful bacteria make ammonia that can pollute the environment. It’s excreted from animals and can end up in groundwater.” The goal in production is for the animals to absorb the protein from feed, rather than degrade it into ammonia. Traditionally, producers achieved this by giving cattle antibiotics that kil

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4 thoughts on “Red Clover: Antibiotic Alternative for Cattle

  1. We interseeded red clover in our fescue pastures years ago on the recommendations of NRCS. Initially, as a lugume it fixates nitrogen in the soil greatly reducing annual fertilizer costs. Since then, we have really noticed an improvement in our overall herd health, so this study does not surprise me.

  2. okay once I started commenting I cant shut up
    since it was a free talk by jim gerrish at the conservative
    shall we say Utah cattlemans meeting in provo 3 years ago
    Jim Gerrish commented and it was like we should all know!!.
    A cow grazing clover excreates plenty excess nitrogen ie excess protein in the urine 7 times a day.
    for me that meant get that sack of clover setting around
    ….planted !!
    with my no till drill…which you advertise rental for me
    that starts FERTILIZING your grass pasture.
    Its not those few clover plants and roots that fertilize
    like we thought. So I planted and a few blooms showed up in what was thick irrigated orchard grass. next san foin goes in as it is a perennial and proven in Idaho Utah montana

  3. Kathy way to go on clover story ….you continue to amaze me ….after it freezes lets all gather at elko and tour the Maggie creek brush killing project…where Carole and I first met you. Richard parrott buhl idaho

  4. Clover blossoms have for thousands of years been on herbals for humans. Now I know why! Best bet to get cattle off of antibios, put them back on pasture and move often to clean pasture. Fresh, green feed daily makes better beef than graining. Grain to animals is like candy to kids, the less the better. Some, certainly, but not try to live on it. Good article, thank you.

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