Clover, which grew in abundance in Kentucky pastures this spring, isn't lucky anymore. Agricultural Commissioner Richie Farmer of Kentucky has asked Governor Steve Beshear to request a disaster declaration from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This request has been made due to the numerous cattle deaths caused by primary ruminal tympany or frothy bloat that have sprung up after cattle consumed large quantities of clover this spring.
Clover gained a strong foothold after droughts in 2007 and 2008 weakened grass stands in pastures throughout Kentucky. This year grasses were dormant during a dry April, and then a wet May caused the white clover to grow more rapidly than grass, which led to cattle ingesting larger-than-normal amounts.
Clover is high in soluble protein. When it is rapidly fermented, foam is produced in the rumen that blocks gas from escaping. The rumen becomes enlarged and puts pressure on the lungs. This can cause suffocation if the condition is not treated via surgery or anti-bloating products.
According to George Heersche, extension dairy specialist at the University of Kentucky, this problem has been most prevalent within the Kentucky beef industry. He also stated that "Dairy heifers that are currently on pasture lack the intake necessary for white clover to be problematic".
Some Kentucky farmers have lost 25 to 30 percent of their herds due to frothy bloat. Sale of cattle and calves generates approximately $600 million in cash receipts annually. If the disaster declaration is made, farmers who have lost large chunks of their herds will finally have some relief. For more information click here.