Forage Management

Harvest management of legumes is planned to optimize forage quality and to maximize the life of the perennial stand.[7] Optimum forage quality depends on the class of livestock utilizing the forage. The number of harvests or

Table 1 Characteristics of some typical forage legumes

Tolerance

Plant

to low soil

Tolerance

Tolerance

Tolerance

Cold

Bloat

Ease of

Scientific name

Common name

lifespan

fertility

to soil acidity

to drought

to wet soils

hardiness

potential

establishment

Aeschynomene

Aeschynomene

Annual

Moderate

Moderate

Low

High

None

No

Moderate

americana L.

(or American joint vetch)

Medicago sativa L.

Alfalfa

Perennial

Low

Low

Very high

Very low

Very high

Yes

Easy

Trifolium hybridum L.

Alsike clover

Perennial

Moderate

Moderate

Low

Very high

High

Yes

Easy

Alysicarpus

Alyceclover

Annual

Low

Moderate

Moderate

Low

None

No

Moderate

vaginalis (L.) DC.

Kummerowia striata

Annual

Annual

Very high

High

Moderate

Moderate-high

None

No

Very easy

(Thunb.) Schindler

(or Japanese) Lespedeza

Lotus corniculatus L.

Birdsfoot trefoil

Perennial

High

High

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

No

Moderate

Desmodium

Carpon

Perennial

Moderate-

Moderate-high

Low-moderate

Moderate-high

Very low

No

Difficult

heterocarpon (L.) DC.

desmodium

high

Astragalus cicer L.

Cicer milkvetch

Perennial

High

Moderate

High

Moderate

Very high

No

Moderate

Securigera

Crownvetch

Perennial

High

Moderate

Moderate

Low

Moderate

No

Moderate

varia (L.) Lassen

Trifolium

Kura clover

Perennial

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

Very high

Yes

Difficult

ambiguum Bieb.

Trifolium repens

Red clover

Perennial

Moderate

Moderate

Moderate

Low

High

Yes

Very easy

(pratense) L.

Arachis glabrata

Rhizoma peanut

Perennial

Moderate-

Moderate-high

Low

Low

Low

No

Difficult

Benth. Var. glabrata

high

Onobrychis

Sainfoin

Perennial

High

Low

Very high

Very low

High

No

Moderate

viciifolia Scop.

Lespedeza cuneata

Sericea

Perennial

High

High

High

Low

Moderate

No

Moderate

(Dum. Cours.) G. Don

Lespedeza

Glycine max (L.) Merr.

Soybean

Annual

Low

Low

High

Low

None

Yes

Easy

Stylosanthes guianensis

Stylo

Perennial

Moderate-

Moderate-high

Moderate-high

Moderate

Very low

No

Moderate

(Aubl.) Sw.

high

var. guianensis

Melilotis albus

Sweetclover

Biennial

High

Low

Very high

Very low

Very high

Yes

Easy

(.Melilotus alba) Medik.

Trifolium repens L.

White clover

Perennial

Moderate

Moderate

Very low

Moderate

High

Yes

Easy

(Adapted from Refs 1-4 )

(Adapted from Refs 1-4 )

Fig. 1 Characteristics of some forage legumes. (From Ref. 6.)

grazing cycles per year ranges from 1 in colder climates to diet, particularly in regions that can support only low-as high as 10 in irrigated warmer climates.[8] quality tropical grasses.[10]

Legume Persistence

A higher level of intensive management is usually necessary to maintain legumes in a stand, compared to the effort required to maintain grasses.[9] Individual legume plants may be relatively short-lived, but legume species can persist in stands by vegetative reproduction, using rhizomes or stolons, or by natural reseeding.[4]

All legumes are C3 plants, so named because the first product of photosynthesis is a 3-carbon compound. This means that legumes can compete with C3 grasses in temperate zones but do not compete well with C4 grasses in tropical and subtropical regions. Because legumes are relatively short-lived, it is important to match legume species to the appropriate soil conditions to maximize stand life. Most forage legumes are grown in mixtures with grasses to improve the nutritive value of the animal's

FORAGE QUALITY

Legumes often have higher crude protein content than grasses because of their symbiotic relationship with nitrogen-fixing rhizobia, which reduces the legumes' dependence on fertilizer nitrogen. Lignin content, which reduces the extent of digestion in ruminants, is comparatively higher in legumes than in grass. A high rate of fiber digestion, coupled with lower overall fiber, results in high passage rates and increased animal productivity for legumes, compared to most grasses. While legumes are generally considered high-quality forage, there are serious antiquality factors associated with some legumes (Table 2), in addition to the potential for inducing bloat, summarized in Table 1. These factors are not always detrimental, and in some cases can be beneficial. For example, at moderate

Table 2 Antiquality factors in forage legumes

Antiquality factor

Example species

Clinical symptoms

Possible consequences

Coumarin

Sweetclover

Susceptibility to hemorrhaging

Fatal for cattle

Mimosine

Leucaena

Loss of hair, goiter

Poor growth in ruminants

Phytates

Soybean

Skin lesions

Poor growth

Phytoestrogens

Red clover

Reproductive problems

Permanent infertility

Saponins

Alfalfa

None

Productivity decline in swine and poultry

Slaframine

Red clover

Profuse salivation

Diarrhea and abortion

Tannins

Birdsfoot trefoil

Reduced feed intake

Reduced animal performance

Toxic amino acids

Flatpea

Trembling and incoordination

Fatal for sheep

Trypsin inhibitors

Cowpea

None

Growth depression in swine and poultry

Unknown

Alsike clover

Jaundice, neurological disturbances

Fatal for horses

Unknown

Cicer milkvetch

Photosensitization, sunburned skin

Poor growth in cattle

concentrations, tannins slow the breakdown of proteins in the rumen and improve protein utilization.

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