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IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
White sweetclover is eaten by all classes of livestock. It is grown for
hay, used as pasture, and is seeded with other legumes to improve
western rangelands [27,31]. The hay is palatable and nutritious but
must be thoroughly cured. Partially cured hay can produce a hemorrhagic
syndrome when ingested by cattle. The toxic substance, dicoumarol,
which occurs only in moldy hay, results from the conversion of nontoxic
coumarin by fungi in moist plants . Sheep and horses are less
susceptible than cattle to the disease. Bloat can occur in livestock
pastured on white sweetclover, but it occurs less frequently than
animals pastured on alfalfa (Medicago sativa) or true clovers (Trifolium
Big game animals, including elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, mule deer,
and white-tailed deer consume this plant when it is available
[5,10,12,34]. The seeds are eaten by numerous species of birds and
small mammals, and are especially common in the diets of quail and
partridge [10,12]. Muskrats feed on the roots when other preferred
foods are scarce. Rabbits eat the leaves and stems .
White sweetclover palatability to livestock and big game animals is
moderately high to high during spring and early summer [4,5,6,45,19,29].
As plants mature, however, they become less palatable because they
become woody and the amount of "bitter tasting" coumarin increases .
When in bloom in the summer, wildlife and livestock "relish" the flowers
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
White sweetclover has a well-balanced complement of nutrients during
early growth stages, and when cut and cured properly, makes a nutritious
and palatable hay. On a dry matter basis, white sweetclover hay
resembles alfalfa hay in metabolizable energy and most digestible
nutrients, but is slightly higher in digestible crude protein .
Crude protein content of hay often exceeds 15 percent on a dry matter
basis . Protein content and digestible protein of dry white
sweetclover aerial parts were reported as follows by the National
Academy of Sciences :
crude protein 15.0 %
digestible protein for cattle 9.9 %
digestible protein for goats 10.6 %
digestible protein for horses 10.3 %
digestible protein for rabbits 10.3 %
digestible protein for sheep 10.8 %
White sweetclover provides good cover for small mammals, waterfowl,
quail, and ring-necked pheasant
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
White sweetclover makes valuable bee pasture and has long been
recognized as one of the most important of all plants for honey
Besides its use for hay or pasture, white sweetclover is also used in
agriculture as a soil improvement crop. Because of its symbiotic
relationship with Rhizobium bacteria, pure stands may add up to 70
pounds of nitrogen per acre (78 kg/ha) to the soil .