Red Clover as Natural Growth Promoter

Research started several years ago at the USDA-ARS lab in Lexington, KY has found natural plant compounds that will also increase gain-to-feed ratios in ruminants. Some of these compounds come from forage plants. The USDA group discovered an antimicrobial growth promoter in red clover. The compound, called biochanin A, belongs to a family of chemicals called isoflavones that are found in many legumes. Red clover has long been an important pasture legume and high-protein diet component, and the effects of biochanin A might explain the production benefits that go beyond protein content.

Biochanin A promotes the growth of cattle by modulating the activity of bacteria in the rumen, so that protein and amino acids are used more efficiently. In short, biochanin A is kinda like a natural monensin. The Lexington group continue to do research to determine how much red clover must be consumed to provide this extra growth promoter effect.

Remember, red clover is a highly nutritious, high protein legume like white clover and alfalfa. Therefore, unlike monesin which can reduce the potential for bloat, red clover grazed at a lush, vegetative stage increases the chance for bloat.

~Highlights of article by Michael Flythe, Glen Aiken, Brittany Harlow. USDA-ARS. The full article can be downloaded here.