The effect of fertilizer nitrogen input to grass-clover swards and calving date on the productivity of pasture-based dairy production

K. M. Scully, B. Keogh, B. O' Brien, I. A. Casey, J. Humphreys

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1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The objective of this systems-scale study was to investigate grazing season timeframes on pasture and milk production and on milk processability of dairy systems with compact spring-calving dairy cows grazing white clover (Trifolium repens L.) based grassland. Fifty-four primiparous and multiparous Holstein-Friesian dairy cows were used in a one-factor study with 3 systems (n = 18) and repeated over 2 yr (2008/09 and 2009/10). The 3 systems were: early spring calving with annual fertilizer N input of 100 kg·ha−1 applied in spring (ES100N; 2.1 cows·ha−1; grazing February to November), early spring calving without fertilizer N (ES0N; 1.6 cows·ha−1; grazing February to November) and late spring calving without fertilizer N (LS0N; 1.53 cows·ha−1; grazing April to January). Annual pasture production was affected by an interaction between grazing system and year: Mean annual pasture yields for 2008 and 2009 were ES100N; 10.35 and 9.88, ES0N; 8.88 and 8.63, LS0N; 9.18 and 10.31 t of dry matter (DM)·ha−1 (SEM 0.39). LS0N had higher pasture DM yield in 2009 due to higher clover DM production and biological N fixation compared with the other systems. Clover stolon and root mass in the following February was correlated with stolon and root mass in the previous November with 64% of stolon mass present on LS0N in February (R2 = 0.84). There were no detectable differences in per-lactation milk yield (6,335 kg·cow−1), fat, protein and lactose yields (271, 226, 297 kg·cow−1, respectively), cow liveweight (585 kg) or body condition score (3.02). Although winter grazing favored subsequent clover DM production, biological N fixation and pasture DM production, delaying calving date in spring and extending lactation into the following winter led to inefficient use of this pasture by the grazing herd and lowered the quality of late-lactation milk for processing purposes. Hence, a mean calving date in mid- to late-February is recommended for zero-fertilizer N input clover-based grassland.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8870-8884
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Volume104
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

Keywords

  • dairy cow
  • milk processability
  • milk production
  • nitrogen fertilizer
  • white clover

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