They have been offered up as a panacea for tall fescue toxicosis. They have been said to provide free nitrogen fertilizer out of thin air.We are told they make cattle grow faster and rebreed quicker. Clovers do provide many benefits to pastures for stocker producers.
Most people consider the ability of clovers and other legumes to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere the primary benefit they offer our pastures. Clovers provide additional benefits to grass pastures because they are higher in digestibility, they grow well as a companion crop to grasses, their mineral profiles are naturally complementary to deficiencies in grass pasture, and they provide dilution of toxins found in our most common permanent pasture, tall fescue.
There are several options available to producers interested in planting clovers in the Mid-South with a variety of benefits, growing seasons, and maturity dates. White clover is a coolseason perennial that is productive throughout Arkansas, tolerates soils that are not well drained, is cold tolerant, and matures in late spring or early summer. In the past few years new varieties of both white and red clovers have been developed that are more productive and disease resistant in conditions found in the Southeastern United States.
Research conducted in Oklahoma by Keith Lusby in the 1990s indicated that adding clovers to highly infected toxic tall fescue made up 79 percentof the lost gain compared to endophyte free tall fescue with Angus calves. But, what are the benefits of the clovers to calves grazing tall fescue infected with non-toxic endophytes?
Research from the Livestock and Forestry Research Station at Batesville shows us that stocker calf gains are reduced by toxic endophyte tall fescue about a half-pound/day in fall and 1 pound/day in the spring compared with non-toxic tall fescue. If adding clovers to toxic tall fescue alleviates the problem the increase in gains by adding clover to toxic fescue should be much greater than what we would see in non-toxic tall fescue.
Over the last four years, we have looked at the effects of interseeding clovers into both toxic (Kentucky-31) and nontoxic endophyte infected tall fescue (Max Q and Texoma MaxQ II).
Regal Graze Ladino clover was interseeded in the fall of the first year of the study. Clover content in the pastures ranged from 15 to 30 percent over the years. In the fall, average daily gains were reduced by nearly a half-pound/day in toxic fescue, and clovers did not improve performance. In the spring, when clovers contributed much more to the pasture, clover increased daily gains by 0.4 pounds/day regardless if it were in toxic or non-toxic fescue, but calves grazing non-toxic tall fescue gained 1.2 pounds/day more than calves grazing toxic tall fescue (2.3 pounds/day vs 1.1 pounds/day).
With the high cost of production of pastures today, stocker cattle must gain weight rapidly to be profitable. Even with the addition of clovers to toxic fescue pastures low performance will limit profitability of stocker cattle. Adding clovers to non-toxic tall fescue will improve daily gain in the spring and will save considerable fertilization expense.
Source: Paul Beck