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Pasture dry matter intake per cow in intensive dairy production systems: effects of grazing and feeding management

  • M. N. Méndez (a1), P. Chilibroste (a2) and M. Aguerre (a1)

Abstract

The competitiveness and sustainability of low input cost dairy production systems are generally supported by efficient use of pasture in the diets. Therefore, pasture intake directly affects overall efficiency of these systems. We aimed to assess feeding and grazing management main factors that affect pasture dry matter intake (DMI) in commercial dairy farms during the different seasons of the year. Fortnightly visits to 28 commercial dairies were carried out between June 2016 and May 2017 to record production and price, supplement offered and price, pasture access time (PAT), herbage mass (HM) and allowance (HA). Only farms with the most contrasting estimated pasture DMI per cow (eDMI) were compared as systems with high (HPI; N = 8) or low (LPI; N = 8) pasture DMI. Despite a lower individual milk production in HPI than LPI (19.0 v. 23.3 ± 0.7 l/cow, P < 0.01), daily margin over feeding cost was not different between groups (3.07 v. 2.93 ± 0.15 U$S/cow for HPI and LPI, respectively). During autumn and winter, HPI cows ingested more pasture than LPI cows (8.3 v. 4.6 and 5.9 v. 2.9 ± 0.55 kg DM/cow per day, respectively, P < 0.01) although PAT, HM and HA were similar between groups. Both groups offered high supplementation levels during these seasons, even though greater in LPI than HPI (14.7 v. 9.7 ± 0.7 kg DM supplement/cow per day, respectively, P < 0.01). On the other hand, differences between groups for both pasture and supplement DMI were more contrasting during spring and summer (13.1 v. 7.3 ± 0.5 and 4.0 v. 11.4 ± 0.4 kg DM/cow per day for HPI and LPI, respectively, P < 0.01), with higher PAT in both seasons (P < 0.05) and higher HA during summer in HPI than LPI (P < 0.01). Unlike LPI, during these seasons HPI adjusted offered supplement according to HA, achieving a higher pasture eDMI and making more efficient use of available pastoral resource than LPI. As there was no grazing limiting condition for pasture harvesting in either group, the main factor affecting pasture DMI was a pasture by supplement substitution effect. These results reinforce the importance of an efficient grazing management, and using supplements to nutritionally complement pasture intake rather than as a direct way to increase milk production.

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Pasture dry matter intake per cow in intensive dairy production systems: effects of grazing and feeding management

  • M. N. Méndez (a1), P. Chilibroste (a2) and M. Aguerre (a1)

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