Can Sheep Eat Clover?

The rapid growth of livestock farming has created great interest on efficient management systems to facilitate improved production. Since nutrition has a direct correlation to productivity, it forms the basis of any management system. To add on, this comes after the realization that most farmers struggle to maintain diets based on industrially produced feeds and additives. As such, the agricultural is aimed on finding feed sources that are much affordable and have a potential to improve production levels. Clover is among the feedstuff considered for sheep. Various studies show that sheep can eat clover for improved production among other reasons. However, excess feeding has been proven to cause a number of health related issues. It is therefore of the utmost importance for farmers to acquire relevant knowledge on the subject matter prior to using the plant as sheep feed.

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Nutritional Value of Clover

Clover is a highly nutritious legume plant. It is highly palatable and digestible thus is most valuable to the practice of sheep farming. Note that there are two types of clover; namely; white and red clover. These differ in nutritional composition with the dinninup, dwalganup, yarloop and geraldton red clover being more toxic to sheep. According to research studies, clover is highly digestible and the leaves are rich in protein. It is considered as highly nutritious when compared to other types of forage, for example ryegrass. This is due to its lower structural fibre and higher protein content.  The characteristics in turn give clover improved digestion and higher intake capabilities. For these reasons, sheep can feed on clover. The superior quality of clover is also due to soluble carbohydrates and minerals including calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. Although sheep can eat clover as a feed supplement, the plant is known to cause bloat and so a proper feeding strategy should be put in place.  The digestibility of inflorescence and flowering stem are also quite low.  Note that while red clover is said to be toxic, white clover contains less phytoestrogens to cause any adverse effects on reproduction.

Another important point to be aware of is that even though sheep can eat clover, some types of clover are not recommended as they are more likely to cause a series of health-related issues. A lot of studies conducted on the subject matter state that dinninup, dwalganup, yarloop and geraldton clover cause temporary infertility in female sheep when grazed during breeding season. It is also revealed that when grazed for prolonged periods for time, dinninup, dwalganup, yarloop and geraldton clover causes permanent infertility in ewes. This is because these types of clover contains high levels of phytoestrogens. Research studies that have been recently conducted point out that sheep can eat clover, including the red variety without experiencing any negative effects on fertility. According to these studies, a few red clover plants in the grazing area is no reason to panic. Similar results in both studies emphasize the importance of ration management and that dinninup, dwalganup, yarloop and geraldton clover should under no circumstances be given to sheep.

 Clover for Improved Performance

Sheep can feed on clover, particularly white clover to improve on their overall performance. As already pointed out, white clover is palatable and highly digestible which allows for the active uptake of nutrients. As such, sheep can acquire sufficient nutrients for daily substance. White clover is also an ideal source of proteins that are of the essence in growth and development of sheep, the nutrients found in the plant help in teeth, muscle and bone development.  Studies reveal that diets consisting of clover are generally superior to those of other types of forage. Clover has been compared to other types of grass such as ryegrass and have been proven to be of superior nutritional value. Sheep that feed on clover tend to achieve higher rates of average daily weight gain in comparison to their counterparts. Furthermore, sheep can eat clover due to its medicinal purposes. The plant helps to keep a healthy flock. It gives the immune system a boost thereby offering sheep some form of resistance against rampant diseases and infection. Nonetheless, sheep can feed on clover only in limited quantities. Excess rations can be as toxic as the dinninup, dwalganup, yarloop and geraldton clover. The plant is among the leading causes of bloat in sheep. Additionally, there is need to provide sheep with feed additives as clover is lacking in some nutrients.

Is Clover Good For Sheep?

The toxicity of clover is often a concern to most farmers, in terms of reproduction. Most farmers are not willing to risk the reproductive capacity of their flock which is generally the continuity of the farming venture. Therefore, most often wonder if clover is good for sheep. The answer is more complicated; appropriate rations of clover are good for sheep. Also, sheep can feed on some types of clover which is good for improved production and health maintenance. As already pointed out, the plant is highly nutritious, digestible and palatable to sheep. However, dinninup, dwalganup, yarloop and geraldton clover contains an increased amount of toxins that can cause infertility. In severe cases, ewes can be permanently infertile putting the entire agricultural venture at risk.  Red clover contains more toxic compounds in comparison to white clover hence the preference of the latter type. Sheep have more tolerance to toxic plants. For this reason, sheep can feed on clover, both the red and white type. However, they can eat more white than red clover.

What Is Bad For Sheep To Eat?

Sheep can feed on clover including various other feedstuff considered as toxic for most animals. Note that this is not always the case, some plants are too toxic even for sheep. Plants such as the oleander, azalea, castor bean tree, foxgloves, cestrum and camelia are not recommended as they are known to cause a series of health related issues.  Vegetables belonging to the brassica family are also not recommended. Most of them gain toxicity as they mature. Moreover, sheep should not be provided with vegetables from the nightshade family like potatoes and tomatoes. The green parts of these plants contain toxic compounds that can be harmful to animals. Fruits are ideal, only when given in limited rations. Excess fruit supplements are also harmful to sheep.