Animal feed is of the essence in livestock farming. It is however also expensive, accounting to over 60% of the overall costs involved in rearing cattle. In order to cut costs, it is necessary for farmers to be aware of affordable feed options that can provide ruminants with nutrients needed for daily sustenance and productivity. Clover provides these benefits to animals. As such, its use has increased tremendously over the years. Most farmers grow clover so as to provide animals with a well-balanced quality feed during dry periods when supplementary feeds are needed most. An important point to remember when providing animals with this type of feed is that although cows can feed on clover, it may cause bloat which is a detrimental condition to health and productivity. In severe cases, livestock mortality is experienced.

Nutritional Value

Clover is among the most commonly used type of legume in animal dietary plans. This is because it is highly productive and cherished by livestock. Clover is a rich source of nutrients and minerals necessary for the physiological development as well as the productivity of both beef and dairy cattle. It contains an ideal content of protein as well as energy. Clover is also highly famed for its medicinal value in cattle. As such, cows can eat clover for health maintenance. According to various agricultural research on the subject matter, clover has superior feeding value with higher intake and animal production than grasses. Clover is often incorporated into pastures to reduce the impact of fescue toxicosis, provide nitrogen for forages, and improve pasture quality leading to increased animal performance. Bloat however remains a risk. For this reason, proper management practises are of the essence.

Cows can feed on clover in order to acquire sufficient amount of nutrients for their daily sustenance. For many decades white clover has been recognised as the most important of all types hence its wide spread usage among farmers. It contains approximately 17% to 33% protein with an average of about 23%. Crude protein decreases with maturity from roughly 25% to 20% dry matter. In recent years, interest towards adopting red clover has increased drastically. This is due to the discovery of its unique properties that affect animal performance and product quality. Red clover is a rich source of protein estimated to be 15% to 27% dry matter, minerals and soluble carbohydrates. To add on, it contains an ideal content of calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C. These play an important role in ensuring healthy animals which also impacts on productivity, therefore translates directly to profitability.

Clover for Physical Development

Clover is regarded as a better option for animal growth and development in comparison to silage and other feeds. As previously outlined, it contains proteins necessary for the development of growing cattle. It has been proven that cows can eat clover so as to facilitate physiological maturity. Clover is known for its low fire content making it highly palatable to cattle. Red clover is said to be more digestible than alfalfa hence cows can readily feed on this type of hay. This results in increased daily weight gain. According to research, higher voluntary intake is ascribed to higher concentration of cell contents resulting in faster rates of particle breakdown in the rumen and more rapid clearance of particles from the rumen, hence the enhanced physical development. The ideal calcium content found in clover is important in the development of teeth, muscles and bones hence it is highly recommended for growing livestock.

Cows can feed on clover, particularly red clover so as to access its unique nutrient properties. These help to control oxidation which is a popular problem in livestock. Lipid oxidation leads to poor animal health thereby affecting proper physiological development. Furthermore, red clover is a rich source of trace minerals that are of the essence in animal development. Since the effects of trace mineral deficiency are witnessed overtime, farmers tend to overlook their necessity in the physiological development of cattle. Trace nutrients have been proven to play an important role in bone development and growth. Deficiencies can cause growth retardation, general muscle weakness, distended abdomen, emaciation and depraved appetite; eventually death. Note that consequences vary according to lacking minerals.

Clover for Dairy Cows

Cows can feed on clover to improve on productivity. Dairy cattle that feed on clover generally perform better in comparison to other livestock. Red and white clover are to a large extent equivalent in usable energy and protein supply, as only minor differences in feed intake and milk yield have been observed when compared. Early experiments conducted on utilization of clover for dairy cows indicate an increase in feed intake as well performance in terms of growth rate and milk yield. Red clover is however recommended as it has been proven to produce superior results. Dairy cows grazing on red clover have an energy of lactation that is 18% greater in comparison to other feed types such as lucerne. These results differ in relation to the amount of feed provided. Red clover has a pronounced effect on milk composition. Cows can eat clover, specifically the red type in order to increase polyunsaturated fatty acids, which is the beneficial alphalinolenic acid. Red clover fed cows have also been proven to produce milk with phytoestrogens, and particularly equol; these may potentially be beneficial to health. That being said, keep in mind that cows can eat clover in limited quantities as excess feed may cause bloat which has adverse effects on productivity.

Clover for Health Maintenance

Animal health is at the core of any livestock farming venture. This is because the health of livestock determines productivity which correlates with profitability and success of the overall agricultural venture. Livestock in poor health are less productive and in severe cases, productivity stops altogether. Therefore, cows can eat clover in order to acquire nutrients necessary for strengthening the immune system. Clover is a rich source of a variety of nutrients that are of the essence in allowing animals some form of protection against diseases. Cows that feed on a well-balanced diet are generally known to be hardier in comparison to other livestock. Clover also contains trace minerals necessary for the control of lipid oxidation. Lipid oxidation affects animal health which in turn diminishes the quality of the meat produced. This can possibly cost farmers a lot of money as poor quality meat is sold at extremely low prices. Note that it is sometimes necessary to provide clover with a suitable supplement to effectively control the impact and/or the occurrence of oxidative stress. Antibiotics are often used, however with a prescription from a veterinary professional.