Scientist Finds Secret Ingredient in Red Clover That Increases Weight Gain in Ruminants

A team of researchers at the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Forage-Animal Production Research Unit has found that an antimicrobial compound in red clover can increase feed efficiency in ruminants.  Biochanin A could be an alternative to using antibiotics to promote growth in feedlots, and could benefit livestock on pasture too. How Antibiotics and Antimicrobials Help Ruminants Ruminant digestion is a process that relies on billions of bacteria and microorganisms. While beneficial bacteria break down fiber and turn forage into nutrients, there are some that “steal” protein and turn it into methane, excreted as gas, or ammonia, excreted in urine. Antibiotics suppress these “Hyper Ammonia-producing Bacteria” (HABs) so that the animal can absorb nutrients that otherwise would have been lost. That means that more of what the animal eats goes into producing meat and milk. And that’s why cattle have been fed antibiotics like tylosin, lasalocid and monensin. Using antibiotics to promote growth is being discouraged now because of concerns the practice could contribute to antibiotic resistance. So ARS microbiologist Michael Flythe and a team of researchers began to look for alternatives. They began to explore red clover as a “Functional Feed” to provide the same benefit as the antibiotics. Testing Biochanin A In the lab, biochanin A was tested on cultures of Hyper Ammonia-producing Bacteria (HAB), and then in rumen fluid from fistulated goats. In bot

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2 thoughts on “Scientist Finds Secret Ingredient in Red Clover That Increases Weight Gain in Ruminants

  1. Thanks for following this research…please share on FB!

    Never been a fan of DDG as I didn’t like the effect it had on the cow, her contentment and her manure over several days….still don’t consider it a good feedstuff and have a better understanding of the underlying cause now thanks to the paper.

    We live in tough country for red clover… best a weak biannual but more often an annual in low density….recent variety releases seem no better than old standards. As long as RC seed price remains similar to crimson or vetch, we will continue use in winter annual blends.

    Interested in similar research for white clover and hairy vetch.


  2. I’ve top-seeded (frost seeded) both common double-cut and Freedom red clover in thin spots in alfalfa. The field also has a section that is too wet for alfalfa and grows almost straight timothy. Last summer both parts of the field were harvested early as haylage and made superb feed. The timothy was almost all leaf. Nevertheless, when time for feeding came, the cows eating a bale of grass, a tiny bit of alfalfa, and lots of red clover ate about 1/3 less. No very scientific, but my cows didn’t want to do replications.

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