The effect of grass cultivars differing in heading date and ploidy on the performance and dry matter intake of spring calving dairy cows at pasture

Noel Gowen, Michael O'Donovan, Imelda Casey, Myles Rath, Luc Delaby, Gearoid Stakelum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The system of milk production in Ireland is dependent on the efficient utilisation of grazed grass. Therefore the use of grass cultivars with different heading dates may have a large effect on dairy cow performance. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of grass cultivars differing in heading date and grass ploidy on milk production and grass dry matter intake (GDMI) of spring calving dairy cows. The study took place over two years. Seventy-two spring calving dairy cows in Year 1 and 80 in Year 2 were blocked into groups of four and were assigned randomly to one of four grass cultivar treatments. The grass cultivars differed in heading date (intermediate or late) and grass ploidy (diploid or tetraploid). The grazing season began in April 12 (Year 1) and April 25 (Year 2) and lasted until the end of September in both years. A total concentrate DM input of 248 kg and 45 kg·cow-1 was offered to the herds in Year 1 and in Year 2, respectively. All concentrate was offered during the first 3 grazing rotations. Rotation had a significant effect (P < 0.001) on all milk production parameters in both years. In Year 1, late heading cultivars significantly (P < 0.05) increased milk yield, solids corrected milk yield (SCM), fat, protein and lactose yield. There was a significant interaction (P < 0.05) between heading date and grass ploidy for lactose yield and fat concentration. In Year 2, late heading cultivars had also increased milk yield (P < 0.01), lactose yield (P < 0.05), SCM (P < 0.05), protein yield (P < 0.001) and protein concentration (P < 0.05). In Year 1, the GDMI was higher (P < 0.001) for cows grazing the late heading cultivars. It is concluded that later heading grass cultivars have a beneficial effect on the milk production performance of spring calving dairy cows.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-336
Number of pages16
JournalAnimal Research
Volume52
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Dairy cows
  • Grass cultivars
  • Grazing
  • Intake
  • Milk production

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