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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Red Clover Silage Boasts Benefit over Alfalfa Silage

Author
item Broderick, Glen

Submitted to: Agricultural Research Service Publication
Publication Type: Government Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: July 1, 2001
Publication Date: July 1, 2001
Citation: BRODERICK, G.A. RED CLOVER SILAGE BOASTS BENEFIT OVER ALFALFA SILAGE. AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH SERVICE PUBLICATION. 2001. v. 49. p. 7.

Technical Abstract: Switching dairy cows from alfalfa to red clover silage will reduce manure nitrogen levels--a boon for the environment. That's because red clover has an enzyme--polyphenol oxidase--that reduces protein breakdown in the silo. With alfalfa, usually more than half of the protein is broken down in the silo breakdown; this results in reduced protein efficiency in the cow, according to ARS dairy scientists in Madison, Wisconsin. In recent trials, cows fed red clover silage produced the same amount of milk as cows fed alfalfa silage--and did so on less feed. Protein efficiency was 17 percent better on red clover than alfalfa. If this improvement applied to only the first half of lactation, when cows are fed the most protein, nitrogen excretion would be reduced by about 1.5 tons per year on a 100-cow dairy farm. Red clover grows better than alfalfa on the acidic soils common in the Midwest. Other pluses: red clover seed is cheaper for producers than alfalfa seed, and red clover will be easier to grow thanks to improved resistance and persistence of new varieties developed by an ARS plant breeder. ARS will release these newer varieties in the fall of 2003. Seed will be available to farmers in about two years.

Last Modified: 8/19/2014
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