Discussing clover role, hay and horses

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By Rick Greenwell


During the forage program at the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association Annual Convention, Don Sorrell, KFGC, President had the opportunity to talk about the “role of clover” down on the farm. To address this subject he surveyed Kentucky’s agriculture agents. The following is a summary of the results of that survey.

• 34 percent of Kentucky’s farmers seed clover as a hay crop and 42 percent seed clover in their pasture fields.

• Frost seeding at 46 percent is the most popular way clover is seeded, followed by no-till (32 percent) and conventional (22 percent).

• The benefits of seeding clover include: improve forage quality, reduces the need for nitrogen fertilization, and reduces the effect of endophyte fescue and improved yield and animal performance.

• The reasons why farmers are not seeding clover include: costs, requires more management, increased fertility/lime, stand persistence and weather.

  It will cost you approximately $25 per acre (seed and application costs) to seed clover into a hay or pasture field plus any additional fertilizer that may be needed. If you put some economic numbers ($$) to the benefits of clover this is what you could get in return:

- 2 to 3 tons additional yield (hay) per acre – $70 to $175 25 to 50 pounds increased weaning weight per calf - $25 to $50 10 to 20 percent improved conception rate (more calves) - $500 or more per calf.

- Reduced nitrogen fertilization– $25 to $75 per acre

With these potential numbers, why aren’t we seeding more clover?

For information on forages and upcoming forage programs go to www.kfgc.org or UK’s forage Web site at www.uky.edu/Ag/Forage.


Horses fed a diet of only forage have greater bacterial stability and fewer “bad” fecal bacteria, such as Streptococcus spp. Than horses that are also fed concentrates. This finding, reported by a group of Swedish researchers, provides opportunities for the industry to develop more targeted feeding strategies to support equine health and welfare.

Diets rich in readily fermentable carbohydrates, fed traditionally to meet the increased energy requirements of the performance horse, are associated with a number of gastrointestinal disorders that involve disturbances in the intestinal microbiota,” wrote the research team, led by Professor Jan Erik Lindberg from the Department of Animal Science at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science.

In this preliminary study, researchers examined the impact of feeding a high-energy forage-only diet or a more traditional forage concentrate diet on fecal microorganisms.

Lindberg and colleagues fed six mature Standardbred geldings in training either the forage-only or the forage-concentrate diets for 29 days. They extracted and analyzed bacterial DNA four times during the study period, measuring fecal pH and culturing bacteria on the last day.

According to the researchers, a forage-only diet “resulted in a microbial composition that was more stable and had lower counts of cultivable (lactic acid bacteria).” In addition, all study horses fed the forage-concentrate diet had motile and swarming Lactobacillus ruminis and significantly more Clostridiaceae cluster III in their feces than horses fed the forage-only diet.

The impact of these findings is unknown, relayed the authors.

This study is the first to describe changes in the uncultured bacterial populations of horses. Ultimately, the Swedish researchers hope to improve the intestinal health of horses and increase the body of knowledge regarding the relationship between diet and microbiota. Research concerning bacteria that appear and disappear with changes in diet is ongoing.