Researchers have bred varieties that can grow alongside alfalfa
By Diego Flammini
Alberta researchers have developed new varieties of a legume that can help prevent cattle from bloating.
Dr. Surya Acharya and his team at the Lethbridge Research Centre have bred different varieties of perennial sainfoin that cattle producers can use in their grazing rotations.
Farmers usually grow alfalfa to feed their cattle and for good reason, Acharya said.
“Alfalfa is considered the queen of forages because it’s good for biomass activity and animal performance is very good when (cattle) are fed alfalfa,” he told Farms.com today. “But one major problem with alfalfa is that it causes bloating.”
Cows will gorge themselves on alfalfa when they are hungry but they can’t release the gases afterwards, Acharya said.
The stored gas inside puts stress on the cow’s lungs and can cause them to suffocate. Bloating can cause death in between two and four hours, according to Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
Sainfoin’s digestive characteristics can prevent this issue.
“Sainfoin has condensed tannins and therefore prevents bloating in cattle,” Acharya said. “The tannins bind to the protein in the animal’s stomach and makes (the protein) unavailable for digestion until it reaches the lower intestine.”
This legume can also grow alongside the alfalfa.
“Producers don’t have to completely replace the alfalfa with sainfoin,” Acharya said. “They can if they want, since it does have high yield and compares very well to alfalfa. But even 15 per cent of sainfoin within an alfalfa pasture can prevent bloating.”
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