• 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.