A review of the effect of legumes on ewe and cow fertility



The literature review showed that there are many different types and also different concentrations of these oestrogen-mimicking compounds present in a range of forage legumes. The concentration of phyto-oestrogens is affected by genetic and many different environmental factors, which may have led to contrary anecdotal evidence as to the effects of legumes per se on ruminant fertility. This, in turn, has resulted in many contradictory farmer guidelines, based on reports from many different countries, on the effects of forage legumes on ruminant fertility.

From the current literature and current guidelines based on work from the UK and abroad, it is currently not possible to extend and provide further clear guidance to UK farmers on the effective use of forage legumes whilst guaranteeing to protect the fertility status of their livestock. Hence, the key industry message – to avoid grazing red clover and other forage legumes prior to and during mating – should remain unchanged until further research is completed.


Planned activity:

  • Further research may be needed, especially on their impact on cow fertility
  • A BRP+ booklet will be generated

The information will be used in various articles.

Beef & Lamb
Project code:
01 January 2011 - 31 May 2011
AHDB Beef & Lamb
Project leader:


74105 Final Report Jul 2011

About this project

The Problem:

A major barrier to the uptake of legumes is the concern about impacts on fertility.


Project Aims:

  • To identify and critique the original source material about red clover and ewe fertility
  • To review all available literature on red and white clover, lucerne, lupins and other agricultural important legumes and the impact on ewes, rams, cows and bulls
  • To provide guidelines to beef and sheep producers on the use of legumes within their systems, with particular focus to replacement breeding stock
  • To identify gaps in knowledge and highlight where new research may be needed



A review of literature relating to legumes and their impact onfertility will be undertaken.