• 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.