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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Lexington, Kentucky » Forage-animal Production Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #335027

Research Project: Optimizing the Biology of the Animal-Plant Interface for Improved Sustainability of Forage-Based Animal Enterprises

Location: Forage-animal Production Research

Title: Red Clover: A ruminant growth promoter you can grow

Author
item Flythe, Michael
item Aiken, Glen
item HARLOW, BRITTANY - Oak Ridge Institute For Science And Education (ORISE)

Submitted to: Hay and Forage Grower
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/31/2016
Publication Date: 2/1/2017
Citation: Flythe, M.D., Aiken, G.E., Harlow, B.E. 2017. Red Clover: A ruminant growth promoter you can grow. Hay and Forage Grower. Pgs. 30-31.

Interpretive Summary: In past decades, antimicrobial growth promoters were antibiotics or synthetic chemicals; however, we are now finding that natural plant compounds can be used to increase gain-to-feed ratios in ruminants. Better yet, the compounds can come from forage plants. Our group, the USDA-Agricultural Research Service Forage-Animal Production Research Unit, has 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.

Technical Abstract: The article summarizes several studies about the benefits of red clover isoflavones for ruminants. Isoflavones are natural chemicals or “natural products” that come from many legumes. Biochanin A is an isoflavone from red clover (Trifolum pratense), a common forage legume. Biochanin A promotes the growth of cattle. It does this by modulating the activity of bacteria in the rumen, the first digestive chamber of ruminants, so that protein and amino acids are used more efficiently.