• Effect of stocking rate and animal genotype on dry matter intake, milk production, body weight, and body condition score in spring-calving, grass-fed dairy cows

      Coffey, E. L.; Delaby, Luc; Fitzgerald, S.; Galvin, Norann; Pierce, K.M.; Horan, Brendan; Dairy Research Ireland (Elsevier, 2017-06-28)
      The objective of the experiment was to quantify the effect of stocking rate (SR) and animal genotype on milk production, dry matter intake (DMI), energy balance, and production efficiency across 2 consecutive grazing seasons (2014 and 2015). A total of 753 records from 177 dairy cows were available for analysis: 68 Holstein-Friesian and 71 Jersey × Holstein-Friesian (JxHF) cows each year of the experiment under a pasture-based seasonal production system. Animals within each breed group were randomly allocated to 1 of 3 whole-farm SR treatments defined in terms of body weight per hectare (kg of body weight/ha): low (1,200 kg of body weight/ha), medium (1,400 kg of body weight/ha), and high (1,600 kg of body weight/ha), and animals remained in the same SR treatments for the duration of the experiment. Individual animal DMI was estimated 3 times per year at grass using the n-alkane technique: March (spring), June (summer), and September (autumn), corresponding to 45, 111, and 209 d in milk, respectively. The effects of SR, animal genotype, season, and their interactions were analyzed using mixed models. Milk production, body weight, and production efficiency per cow decreased significantly as SR increased due to reduced herbage availability per cow and increased grazing severity. As a percentage of body weight, JxHF cows had higher feed conversion efficiency, higher DMI and milk solids (i.e., kg of fat + kg of protein) production, and also required less energy intake to produce 1 kg of milk solids. The increased production efficiency of JxHF cows at a similar body weight per hectare in the current analysis suggests that factors other than individual cow body weight contribute to the improved efficiency within intensive grazing systems. The results highlight the superior productive efficiency of high genetic potential crossbred dairy cows within intensive pasture-based milk production systems at higher SR where feed availability is restricted.
    • Multi-year evaluation of stocking rate and animal genotype on milk production per hectare within intensive pasture-based production systems

      Coffey, E. L.; Delaby, Luc; Fleming, C.; Pierce, K.M.; Horan, Brendan; Dairy Research Levy (Elsevier, 2017-12-14)
      The objective of this experiment was to evaluate the effect of stocking rate (SR) and animal genotype (BR) on milk production, body weight (BW), and body condition score (BCS) within intensive pasture-based systems. A total of 533 lactation records, from 246 elite genetic merit dairy cows were available for analysis; 68 Holstein-Friesian (HF) and 71 Jersey × Holstein-Friesian (JxHF) crossbred cows in each of 4 consecutive years (2013–2016, inclusive). Cows from each BR were randomly allocated to 1 of 3 whole-farm comparative SR treatments, low (LSR; 1,200 kg of BW/ha), medium (MSR; 1,400 kg of BW/ha), and high (HSR; 1,600 kg of BW/ha), and remained in the same SR treatments for the duration of the experiment. The effects of SR, BR, and their interaction on milk production/cow and per hectare, BW, BCS, and grazing characteristics were analyzed. Total pasture utilization per hectare consumed in the form of grazed pasture increased linearly as SR increased: least in LSR (10,237 kg of dry matter/ha), intermediate in MSR (11,016 kg of dry matter/ha), and greatest in HSR (11,809 kg of dry matter/ha). Milk and milk solids (MS) yield per hectare was greatest for HSR (15,942 and 1,354 kg, respectively), intermediate for MSR (14,191 and 1,220 kg, respectively), and least for LSR (13,186 and 1,139 kg, respectively) with similar trends evident for fat, protein, and lactose yield/ha. At higher SR (MSR and HSR), MS yield per kg of BW per ha was reduced (0.85 and 0.82 kg of MS/kg of BW, respectively) compared with LSR (0.93 kg of MS/kg of BW/ha). Holstein-Friesian cows achieved fewer grazing days per hectare (−37 d), and produced more milk (+561 kg/ha) but less fat plus protein (−57 kg/ha) compared with JxHF cows; the JxHF cows were lighter. At similar BW per hectare, JxHF cows produced more fat plus protein/ha during the grazing season at low (1,164 vs. 1,113 kg), medium (1,254 vs. 1,185 kg), and high (1,327 vs. 1,380 kg) SR. In addition, JxHF cows produced more fat plus protein per kg of BW/ha (0.90 kg) compared with HF cows (0.84 kg). The results highlight the superior productive efficiency of high genetic potential crossbred dairy cows within intensive pasture-based production systems.