Sweet clover can boost production in pastures and hayfields, but be sure hay containing the invasive legume is thoroughly dry before baling or storing it, warns Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension forage specialist.
He says sweet clover, plentiful in Nebraska this year, fixes more nitrogen for adjacent grasses than most other legumes. Before blooming, it provides good-quality grazing and is bitter, so cattle won’t eat much of it if other plants are available, reducing bloat risks.
But moldy sweet clover hay contains dicoumarin, which interferes with metabolism and synthesis of vitamin K. Without vitamin K, blood won’t clot properly after an injury and blood can even seep out of healthy blood vessels. That’s why sweet clover poisoning is also called sweet clover bleeding disease, says Anderson.
If you must feed moldy sweet clover, he advises alternating a week of moldy hay followed by a week of non-moldy forage as a safer alternative to mixing good and moldy hay together.
“Sound management will enable you to handle both the bad and the good when sweet clover is abundant,” he says.