Can cows eat clover forage? Or not?! Moo! That’s the sound of a cow eating. Cows are grazing animals and love grazing on grass, but can your farm cows safely eat clover forage? Clover is a prized forage crop for livestock because it is so high in protein and minerals.
While cattle may enjoy nibbling on clover forage, it shouldn’t make up a large part of their diet. Clover can contain harmful compounds that can damage a cow’s liver.
So, while clover is okay in small doses, it’s best to steer clear of this sweet plant if you’re raising cows!
But – there are also other cow clover nuances to consider. Let’s dive deeper into the question of whether or not cows can eat clover.
Can Cows Eat Clover?
Cows can eat clover. However, it should be clover that is specified as feed-safe and mold-free. While a bit of clover here and there shouldn’t harm your cows, excessive amounts of sweet, yellow, or white clover can cause cattle to develop metabolic disorders and bloat, which can be deadly.
Cows can eat clover, but be wary about feeding too much sweet clover, particularly spoiled or damaged sweet clover. That’s because it can interfere with blood clotting and vitamin K metabolism, potentially leading to hemorrhaging in your animals. Moldy sweet clover may also increase the risk of abortion in pregnant cows.
Grazing on clover can also lead to bloat. Bloat is a digestive disorder that occurs when gas accumulates in the first two compartments of a cow’s stomach, the rumen and reticulum.
Therefore, you must ensure that the clover you feed is not moldy and that you are growing low-coumarin clover varieties. Also – stay mindful of how much clover is present in your pastures! Also, consider the grazing conditions at the time to ensure your cows don’t overdo it.
Does Clover Kill Cattle?
Does clover kill cattle? It’s a question that has long puzzled ranchers and farmers. Clover is a type of legume, which means it belongs to the pea family. Like other pea family members, clover can fix nitrogen from the air.
Clover’s nitrogen-fixing properties mean it can enrich the soil, making it more fertile. For this reason, clover often gets used as a cover crop or livestock fodder. However, some ranchers believe that clover is poisonous to cattle. We’ve also heard several reports of cattle dying after eating large quantities of clover.
So is clover a poor snack for cows? It can be, but the good news is that it usually does not kill them.
To treat vitamin K problems related to the ingestion of moldy or spoiled hay, most vets will give cows an injection to treat the problem.
In minor cases of bloat, your cow may be more likely to get gas and suffer from some discomfort. In extreme cases of bloat, the cow’s rumen will distend and balloon out, which can cause restricted breathing, heart failure, and death.
Can cows eat clover? The answer is yes! And this red clover seed is a favorite forage legume for farm cattle and wild animals. It's perfect for food plots, hay, pasture mixtures, silage, and as a cover crop. Red clover is also surprisingly easy to establish in many soil types and climate conditions. It also helps to improve soil - and is less arduous to manage than turfgrass - making it one of our favorite forage crops overall.
How Bad Is Clover for Cows?
Most of the time, cows can handle grazing clover, especially if it’s not moldy or spoiled. Fresh clover in the pasture is usually fine for cows – and they love eating it!
However, stay mindful of turning your cows out on immature pastures containing alfalfa, red clover, and white clover, especially when there is less than 50% grass in the grassland pasture. Or when it’s cold and rainy. These conditions make it more likely that your cows will produce more gas after eating the clover, and pressure will build in the stomach, leading to bloat.
Is There a Better Cover Crop or Pasture Crops We Can Grow Instead?
All types of clover are legumes, meaning all can lead to bloat. Most of the time, cows can adapt to grazing forage with a high potential for bloat (like clover) if given time to acclimate over several days.
The most significant risks arise when cows are hungry and turned into a pasture where sweet clover is immature and in high quantities – again, waiting to graze until the clover is older or when your cows aren’t as hungry can help.
Growing alternative crops like oats, annual ryegrass, and cereal grains is a good option, too.
How Do You Stop Cows From Eating Clover?
In most cases, you can’t stop cows from eating clover if it’s in a pasture where they are grazing. A hungry foraging cow will munch on whatever is around!
However, you should avoid letting your cattle feast in grassland pastures when there are high amounts of immature legumes, especially when wet. Wait to move cows until midday – when they are less likely to eat – and try strip grazing. (Pasture is also likely plenty dry during midday.)
The best tip when offering clover hay is to be sure it’s dry. Adding corn when you know the pastures are heavy on clover can also help. It is readily fermentable and speeds up digestion, making your cows less likely to bloat.
The most vital tip when feeding cows clover is to ensure you’re not feeding wet, moldy, or spoiled sweet clover hay. Be especially mindful when feeding calves or yearlings this kind of hay, as they are more likely to suffer from sweet clover poisoning.
Signs of sweet clover poisoning include hemorrhaging, increased incidents of parasite infestations, lesions, and more.
Discard any portions of hay or silage that are moldy. If you suspect the clover is poisonous, you can have it tested for dicoumarol. You can avoid severe poisoning by alternating sweet clover hay with other types of roughage (if you’re unsure that it is moldy or spoiled). Of course, stacking and baling clover only when it is dry and cured is a good piece of advice, too.
Can Cows Eat Clover Forage – FAQs
By and large – we’re massive proponents of clover! It has tons of advantages over traditional turfgrass. But what about cows using clover as forage crops? Our homesteading friends always wonder – so we assembled a list of related questions. We hope they help you. And your cows!
Clover is a good source of nutrition for cows, providing them with protein, fiber, and minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. However, it is critical that your cows avoid moldy or spoiled clover hay, as this can contain toxins, or to allow them to graze excessively on clover! Doing so can lead to bloat.
Sweet clover is most likely to kill cows, as it can lead to bloat and toxicity when ingested, particularly in moldy or spoiled feed.
Red clover is a popular choice for cattle as it is high in proteins and minerals. White clover is another option. White clover is known for its ability to tolerate shade and heavy grazing.
Clover is a type of legume often used as cattle feed. While it is generally considered safe, there have been some reports of cattle becoming sick after eating clover. Usually, this is due to either bloat from ingesting too much clover or from devouring spoiled or moldy hay.
Be particularly cautious about grazing cattle on sweet clover, as this is more likely to lead to bloat or toxicity. Wet hay from sweet clover has high-risk factors for cows.
Clover is considered acceptable forage for cows. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If cows eat way too much clover forage, it can cause them to develop bloat. This condition occurs due to the fermentation of clover in the cow’s stomach. And it can lead to serious health problems. In severe cases, bloat can be fatal.
- What Do Cows Eat (Other Than Grass and Hay)?
- Can Cows Eat Apples? What About Fermented Apples?
- How Long Do Cows Live on Your Homestead [Beef and Dairy 101]
- How Fast Can a Cow Run, Exactly?
So, can cows eat clover? The answer is yes – in moderation. Clover offers innumerable benefits to farmers, including increases in milk production and improvements in growth rates. However, there are also risks.
Keep this advice in mind and feed wisely!
What about you and your cows? Do you find that your cows love eating clover?
And – what steps do you take to ensure your hay gets safely dried and cured?
We would love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks again for reading.
Have a great day!