U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Document Type


Date of this Version



The Author(s) 2018


Transl. Anim. Sci. 2019.3:316–328 doi: 10.1093/tas/txy147


Lolium arundinaceum [(Darbyshire) tall fescue] toxicosis is responsible for substantial beef production losses in the United States, due to its negative effects on reproduction, growth, and feed efficiency. These effects are consequences of toxic alkaloids within tall fescue. Interseeding legumes, such as Trifolium pratense (red clover), into pastures has been shown to mitigate a portion of these effects. Clovers contain isoflavones, which may play a role in tall fescue toxicosis mitigation. The present study utilized 36 Angus steers to determine the effects of daily supplementation with a red clover- isolated isoflavone feed additive on physiological symptoms of tall fescue toxicosis and the rumen microbial environment over a 21-d period. Angus steers were initially stratified based upon their single nucleotide polymorphism genotype at the DRD2 receptor. Treatments were then randomly assigned in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement within a completely randomized design, where treatment factors consisted of tall fescue seed type (endophyte- infected tall fescue seed vs. endophyte-free tall fescue seed) supplemented with and without the isoflavone additive. Steers that consumed endophyte- infected tall fescue seed had lower serum prolactin concentrations (P = 0.0007), average daily gain (ADG; P = 0.003), final body weight (BW; P = 0.004), and feed efficiency (P = 0.018) when compared with steers that consumed endophyte-free tall fescue seed. Serum insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) tended to be reduced with supplementation of isoflavones (P = 0.06) but was unaffected by seed type (P ≥ 0.10) and seed by treatment interaction (P ≥ 0.10). Isoflavones reduced serum glucose levels (P = 0.023), but neither seed type, isoflavones, or their interaction affected serum urea nitrogen (SUN), nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA), or insulin (P ≥ 0.10). Volatile fatty acid concentrations, dry matter intake (DMI), ruminal pH, and overall feeding behaviors were also unaffected by seed type or isoflavone treatments (P ≥ 0.10). Twentyeight ruminal bacteria taxa shifted as a result of seed type or isoflavone treatment (P < 0.05). In this experiment, feeding isoflavones to Angus cattle did not completely mitigate all symptoms of fescue toxicosis. However, dose–response trials may aid future research to determine if dietary supplementation with isoflavones alleviates fescue toxicosis symptoms and promotes livestock growth and performance.