If you’re wondering if cows can eat clover, the answer is yes, though it should not be eaten in excessive amounts. This applies to white clover, red clover, crimson clover, alsike clover, and purple clover.

The reason for this isn’t actually due to toxicity like it is with many other foods that should be avoided. The reason varies according to the type of clover consumed.

What Happens When Cows Eat Clover?

White Clover, Sweet Clover, Crimson Clover

The danger associated with cows eating too much white clover, sweet clover, and crimson clover is that it can cause pasture bloat. Pasture bloat is a digestive disorder that occurs when a cow’s rumen (a cow’s largest stomach compartment) gets inflated with gas and is unable to release it.

Death rates can be as high as 20% in cattle grazing bloat-prone pasture. So you can tell that cow producers should make sure to avoid feeding cows too much clover.

Red Clover

Red clover isn’t as likely to cause pasture bloat compared to other types of clover, but it contains substances called isoflavones, which can have an impact on the reproductive performance of ruminants like dairy cows.

Alsike Clover

Cows should not eat alsike clover primarily because it contains a pyrrolizidine alkaloid that causes liver damage, though this is less common in cattle than other animals, such as horses.

Why Does Clover Cause Bloat in Cattle?

As mentioned, bloat occurs in cattle when a cow’s rumen becomes inflated with gas and is unable to release it. This can happen when cows graze lush, high-protein legumes, of which clover is.

Is Clover Good for Cows?

While complications can occur if cows over-consume clover, clover can play an important role in a cow’s diet. In some areas, clover is grown in abundance, so it would be a shame to let it go to waste.

There are a couple of things to consider before feeding clover to cows, though. This includes making sure that the clover is mixed to avoid overconsumption, ensuring that any hay containing clover is thoroughly dry, and cutting around areas that are heavily populated by clover.

To reduce the risk of overconsumption, rotational grazing has successfully been employed.

Is Clover Poisonous to Cows?

Clover in and of itself isn’t poisonous to cattle, but if its get infected or damaged then it can be. For example, in spoiled or damaged sweet clover, a substance called coumarin can be converted to dicoumarin that interferes with vitamin K metabolism and blood clotting and can result in hemorrhaging.