Research Highlight from USDA-ARS Lexington

Recent research has found that isoflavones, present in red clover, may be responsible for reducing the effects of fescue toxicosis. Isoflavones act as on receptors present on blood vessels to promote vasodilation and improve blood flow, reversing the effects of ergot alkaloid induced vasoconstriction. The objective of this research was to evaluate the effect of isoflavone supplementation with tall fescue seed consumption on beef steer’s rumen and serum metabolomes (the mixture of chemicals present in the blood or digestive system). Seed was used because it contains high levels of ergot alkaloids like ergovaline, the main toxin in tall fescue. The rumen metabolome was largely impacted by endophyte infected seed, while the serum metabolome was influenced by isoflavone supplementation. In the rumen, the impact of the infected seed involved carbohydrate and nucleic acids metabolism. In the serum, differences in global metabolomes and individual metabolites involved in urea cycling and amino acid metabolic pathways were identified in animals receiving isoflavones and those who did not. This work supports the idea that dietary inclusion of isoflavones reduce the harmful effects of tall fescue toxicosis. In short, the effect of tall fescue on livestock is complicated, but the beneficial compounds in red clover have broad ranging beneficial effects.

From the Research Article: “Rumen and serum metabolomes in response to endophyte-infected tall fescue seed and isoflavone supplementation in beef steers” ~ Taylor Ault-Seay et al.