• Effect of autumn/spring nitrogen application date and level on dry matter production and nitrogen efficiency in perennial ryegrass swards

      O'Donovan, Michael; Delaby, Luc; Stakelum, G.; Dillon, Pat; National Development Plan 2000–2006 (Teagasc, 2004)
      The influence of autumn/spring N-application date and level on grass dry matter (DM) production in spring and on N uptake, recovery and efficiency were examined over 3 years (1998, 1999 and 2000, identified as Year 1, 2 and 3, respectively). Seven N-application dates were investigated in years 2 and 3 while four application dates were investigated in Year 1. The application dates were 21 October (T1), 11 November (T2), 2 December (T3), 23 December (T4), 12 January (T5), 3 February (T6) and 23 February (T7). Three N-application rates (kg N/ha) were used: 30 (N30), 60 (N60) and 90 (N90) plus a zero-N control (N0). Herbage DM yields were determined on: 18 March (H1) and 8 April (H2). Two herbage masses (HM) (40 mm above ground level) at initial Napplication date were investigated: a high HM (HHM) of 500 kg DM/ha and a low HM (LHM) of 100 kg DM/ha. The HM at initial N-application date in Year 1 was HHM, in Year 2 LHM and in Year 3 both HHM and LHM. There was a significant effect of Year (P<0.001), HM (P<0.001), N-application date (P<0.001) and N level (P<0.001) on DM production at both H1 and H2. At H1 there was a significant interaction between N-application date and level for DM production. N-application date had a significant (P<0.001) effect on N recovery at both H1 and H2. The highest N recovery rate at the two harvest dates was at T5, while the lowest was at T1 and T2. At H1 and H2 there was a significant effect (P<0.001) of application date on response to applied N. The responses were 7.5, 8.0, 8.3, 12.0, 15.7, 7.3 and 5.6 (kg DM/kg N) (s.e. 1.88) for T1 to T7,respectively, at H1, while the corresponding values at H2 were 10.3, 8.7, 6.1, 15.2, 17.6,11.4 and 15.1 (s.e. 1.88). At H2 the response to applied N was 15.6, 11.5 and 9.1 (kg DM/kg N) for N30, N60 and N90, respectively (P<0.05). Regression analysis indicated that highest DM production was achieved with T5 for both H1 and H2 harvest dates, while the lowest responses were associated with T1, T2 and T3 application dates.
    • The effect of different levels of spring grass supply and stocking rate on the performance and intake of cows in early lactation

      O'Donovan, Michael; McEvoy, Mary; Kennedy, Emer; Delaby, Luc; Murphy, John (Teagasc, 2008-11-01)
      Grazed herbage can supply nutrients to dairy cows at a lower cost than alternative feeds (Shalloo et al., 2004). Therefore, the objective of pasture-based systems must be to maximize the proportion of grazed grass in the diet of the dairy cow (Dillon et al., 2005). The extension of the grazing season into the early spring period can be facilitated by ceasing grazing of pastures earlier in autumn which allows grass to accumulate, thereby ensuring an adequate herbage supply in early spring when animal demand exceeds grass growth/supply (O’Donovan, 2000). Grazing pastures in early spring has previously been shown to increase herbage utilization and condition swards for subsequent grazing rotations (O’Donovan et al., 2004; Kennedy et al., 2006).
    • 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.
    • Meta-analysis of the effect of white clover inclusion in perennial ryegrass swards on milk production

      Dineen, Michael; Delaby, Luc; Gilliland, T.; McCarthy, Brian; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Irish Dairy Levy (Elsevier, 2017-11-23)
      There is increased demand for dairy products worldwide, which is coupled with the realization that consumers want dairy products that are produced in a sustainable and environmentally benign manner. Forage legumes, and white clover (Trifolium repens L.; WC) in particular, have the potential to positively influence the sustainability of pasture-based ruminant production systems. Therefore, there is increased interest in the use of forage legumes because they offer opportunities for sustainable pasture-based production systems. A meta-analysis was undertaken to quantify the milk production response associated with the introduction of WC into perennial ryegrass swards and to investigate the optimal WC content of dairy pastures to increase milk production. Two separate databases were created. In the grass-WC database, papers were selected if they compared milk production of lactating dairy cows grazing perennial ryegrass-WC (GC) swards with that of cows grazing perennial ryegrass-only swards (GO). In the WC-only database, papers were selected if they contained milk production from lactating dairy cows grazing on GC swards with varying levels of WC content. Data from both databases were analyzed using mixed models (PROC MIXED) in SAS (SAS Institute, Cary, NC). Within the grass-WC database, where mean sward WC content was 31.6%, mean daily milk and milk solids yield per cow were increased by 1.4 and 0.12 kg, respectively, whereas milk and milk solids yield per hectare were unaffected when cows grazed GC compared with GO swards. Stocking rate and nitrogen fertilizer application were reduced by 0.25 cows/ha and 81 kg/ha, respectively, on GC swards compared with GO swards. These results highlight the potential of GC production systems to achieve similar levels of production to GO systems but with reduced fertilizer nitrogen inputs, which is beneficial from both an economic and environmental point of view. In the context of increased demand for dairy products, there may be potential to increase the productivity of GC systems by increasing fertilizer nitrogen use to increase stocking rate and carrying capacity while also retaining the benefit of WC inclusion on milk production per cow.
    • Milk production per cow and per hectare of spring-calving dairy cows grazing swards differing in Lolium perenne L. ploidy and Trifolium repens L. composition

      McClearn, Bríd; Gilliland, Trevor J.; Delaby, Luc; Guy, Clare; Dineen, Michael; Coughlan, Fergal; McCarthy, Brian; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Dairy Research Ireland (Elsevier, 2019-07-10)
      Grazed grass is the cheapest feed available for dairy cows in temperate regions; thus, to maximize profits, dairy farmers must optimize the use of this high-quality feed. Previous research has defined the benefits of including white clover (Trifolium repens L.) in grass swards for milk production, usually at reduced nitrogen usage and stocking rate. The aim of this study was to quantify the responses in milk production of dairy cows grazing tetraploid or diploid perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.; PRG) sown with and without white clover but without reducing stocking rate or nitrogen usage. We compared 4 grazing treatments in this study: tetraploid PRG-only swards, diploid PRG-only swards, tetraploid with white clover swards, and diploid with white clover swards. Thirty cows were assigned to each treatment, and swards were rotationally grazed at a farm-level stocking rate of 2.75 cows/ha and a nitrogen fertilizer rate of 250 kg/ha annually. Sward white clover content was 23.6 and 22.6% for tetraploid with white clover swards and diploid with white clover swards, respectively. Milk production did not differ between the 2 ploidies during this 4-yr study, but cows grazing the PRG-white clover treatments had significantly greater milk yields (+596 kg/cow per year) and milk solid yields (+48 kg/cow per year) compared with cows grazing the PRG-only treatments. The PRG-white clover swards also produced 1,205 kg of DM/ha per year more herbage, which was available for conserving and buffer feeding in spring when these swards were less productive than PRG-only swards. Although white clover is generally combined with reduced nitrogen fertilizer use, this study provides evidence that including white clover in either tetraploid or diploid PRG swards, combined with high levels of nitrogen fertilizer, can effectively increase milk production per cow and per hectare.
    • 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.
    • Nutritive value of forage legumes used for grazing and silage

      Dewhurst, Richard J.; Delaby, Luc; Moloney, Aidan P; Boland, T. M.; Lewis, Eva (Teagasc, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland, 2009)
      Legume forages have an important position in ruminant production in Western Europe and with further development can play an even larger role. Red clover for silage and white clover in grazed swards lead to enhanced growth rate and milk yield in comparison with pure grasses. Much of the production benefit of these legumes relates to enhanced intake since digestibilities are not markedly different to grasses. The higher intake of legume silages reflects differences in the cell structure of legume plants which combined with high fermentation rates means that they break down into small particles in the rumen, and leave the rumen more rapidly than perennial ryegrass. Ease of ingestion leads to high rates of intake, which explains higher intakes for grazed legumes. A further benefit of legumes is the reduced rate of decline in digestibility with advancing maturity. Whilst legumes have limited effects on gross milk composition or carcass characteristics, there are marked increases in levels of beneficial n−3 PUFA. Legumes have often led to a reduction in methane production from the rumen and again, this relates to both physical and chemical differences between forage species. The high rates of release of soluble protein and of breakdown to small particles from clovers and lucerne is associated with susceptibility to bloat, which is a limitation to further exploitation in grazing systems. The high concentration of rapidly degraded protein in legumes also leads to inefficient utilisation of dietary N and increased urinary N output. Research with tanniniferous forages, such as birdsfoot trefoil and sulla, demonstrates the potential for future legumes with reduced environmental and health effects, though these particular forage legumes are not well adapted to temperate regions of Western Europe that are the focus of this review.