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The effect of spring grass availability and grazing rotation length on the production and quality of herbage and milk in early spring

  • A. Claffey (a1) (a2), L. Delaby (a3), N. Galvin (a1), T. M. Boland (a2) and M. Egan (a1)...

Abstract

The importance of spring grass in the diet of early lactation dairy cows has been widely acknowledged. Numerous studies completed on a plot/paddock basis have identified methods of increasing herbage availability in spring, but little focus was placed on how this impacts animal production. The aim of the current study was to investigate the impact of opening farm cover (OFC; grass availability on farm at turnout in spring; 1036 (high), 748 (medium) and 544 (low) kg DM/ha) and spring rotation length (fast – 56 days and normal – 63 days) on animal performance in early lactation and herbage production and quality. Spring rotation length had little effect on animal performance, herbage variables or sward composition. High OFC increased pre-grazing herbage mass, allowing for increased daily herbage allowance (DHA) compared to medium and low OFC. There was a reduced proportion of leaf in the sward of the high OFC compared to the low OFC, resulting in lower organic matter digestibility. Despite the reduction in sward quality observed as a consequence of achieving high OFC in spring, the greater DHA available to animals increased milk production (+1.4 kg milk/cow/day). Additionally, animals grazing a medium or low OFC had a greater requirement for silage supplementation in spring (+1.3 kg DM/cow/day). The benefits of the higher DHA highlighted in the current study suggest that autumn grazing management must be adapted to increase herbage availability in spring. However, the benefits observed in milk production did not persist beyond the first grazing rotation.

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Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: M. Egan, E-mail: Michael.Egan@teagasc.ie

References

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The effect of spring grass availability and grazing rotation length on the production and quality of herbage and milk in early spring

  • A. Claffey (a1) (a2), L. Delaby (a3), N. Galvin (a1), T. M. Boland (a2) and M. Egan (a1)...

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