NDSU Extension - Williams County


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Gardeners-Know Your Manure, Sweetclover Hay Alert

Published October 26, 2014
Gardeners-Know Your Manure, Sweetclover Hay Alert


Gardeners – Know Your Manure

As a young boy I remember Dad and Grandpa talking about how valuable manure was to plant growth.  I didn’t recall any of the specifics and maybe they really didn’t know either.  However, I do recall strips in the fields which looked better than other areas.  My mother insisted that we apply manure to her garden area. Since then I have learned that manure provides valuable nutrients such as nitrogen which enhances plant growth.  It also serves to build organic matter levels of the soil which then contributes to the soils ability to hold more water. Although manure has been viewed as a very safe additive to the soil there is a slight possibility that modern-day manure can pose some problems for gardeners.  The reason I mention this is because some farmers spray their pastures and hayland with pyridine herbicides to control broadleaf weeds.  These herbicides include Crossbow, Curtail, Forefront, Grazon, Milestone, Redeem and Surmount. Manure from livestock feeding on pyridine-treated hay or pasture grass should not be used in gardens.  The reason being is that the herbicide can pass through the animal without decomposing.  It is then likely these herbicides will remain in the soil and negatively react or even kill several of the vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, peas and beans.  These are extremely sensitive to the listed herbicides.  Affected plants will stretch and curl, similar to damage caused by dandelion killers that drift onto plants.  Pyridine products can persist in manure for a few years.  So, if you are using manure, ask the farmer if he or she has applied any of the products listed above to their forage crops.  The use of these products is not widespread so the danger may be low.

Sweetclover Hay Alert

This summer was a good year for sweetclover.  It could be found everywhere.  Because it produces a lot of tonnage and can be very good winter forage for cattle, sheep and goats, it is very tempting to cut and bale it into hay.  As with a lot of things in life, there are pluses and minuses.  The most negative issue for sweetclover used as hay is its thick stems which require more time to dry-down before it can be safely baled.  If harvested with too much moisture the hay can become moldy.  The problem with sweetclover is that it contains a high level of a unique naturally reoccurring chemical known as coumarin to be converted to dicoumarol which is a potent anticoagulant.  Dicoumarol also interferes with the metabolism of vitamin K which the body need for blood coagulation. High levels of dicoumarol can cause animals to become weak, experience an increased heart rate, anemia, bloody milk and produce black, tarlike manure.  Dr. Gerald Stokka, NDSU Extension Veterinarian, says many of these symptoms may go unnoticed and often extensive internal bruising and bleeding is discovered after the animal has died. So, if you are planning to feed sweetclover hay that has the slightest amount of mold I would urge it be tested for dicoumarol levels.  This can be done by the NDSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.  For information on submitting hay samples call this office at 701-577-4595.  With the value of beef as it is, there is absolutely no reason to risk even one animal. 

-Warren Froelich

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