• Evaluation of the n-alkane technique for estimating herbage dry matter intake of dairy cows offered herbage harvested at two different stages of growth in summer and autumn

      Wright, Marliene; Lewis, Eva; Garry, B.; Galvin, Norann; Dunshea, Frank; Hannah, M.C.; Auldist, Martin J.; Wales, W.J.; Dillon, Pat; Kennedy, Emer; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-11-10)
      The n-alkane technique for estimating herbage dry matter intake (DMI) of dairy cows was investigated in this experiment. Eight Holstein-Friesian dairy cows were offered perennial ryegrass ad libitum that had been harvested at two different herbage masses and during two different seasons, in order to assess the effect of herbage mass and season on the accuracy of the n-alkane technique. Two pre-harvested herbage mass treatments (low, target 1500 kg DM/ha versus high, target 4000 kg DM/ha, measured above 4 cm), were investigated in a crossover factorial arrangement within each of two seasons (summer versus autumn), in Ireland. Each season consisted of two periods, each 12 days in length. Cows were housed in individual metabolism stalls to allow for accurate determination of measured DMI. Herbage DMI was estimated, with the n-alkane technique, by dosing cows twice daily with a C32 n-alkane. Pre-harvest herbage mass and season did not affect the n-alkane estimated DMI, although lack of season and herbage mass effects may have been masked by variation that occurred between swards within the same herbage mass and season. However, there were a number of differences between summer and autumn in the fecal recovery rates of a number of n-alkanes suggesting that the effect of season requires further investigation prior to the application of recovery rates from literature values when investigating diet selection and botanical composition. Overall, the n-alkane technique provided good estimates of DMI; the discrepancy had a standard deviation due to sward of 1.2 and 1.0 kg DM/cow per day, and hence potential bias of up to twice this, and a measurement error standard deviation of 1.3 and 1.0 kg DM/cow per day, for the C33/C32 and C31/C32 n-alkane pair methods respectively. Two n-alkane pairs were tested, and C33/C32 n-alkane provided the most precise estimates of DMI, compared with the C31/C32 n-alkane pair. This research provides some strong evidence for future use of the n-alkane technique including that the accuracy of the technique has not been influenced by contemporary changes to herbage management, is not affected by seasonal changes, and overall is an accurate and precise technique for estimating DMI.
    • Incorporating white clover (Trifolium repens L.) into perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) swards receiving varying levels of nitrogen fertilizer: Effects on milk and herbage production

      Egan, Michael; Galvin, Norann; Hennessy, Deirdre; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Irish Dairy Levy (Elsevier, 2018-02-04)
      White clover (Trifolium repens L.; clover) can offer a superior nutritional feed compared with perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.; PRG) and offers an additional or alternative source (or both) of N for herbage production. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of including clover into PRG swards receiving 150 (Cl150) or 250 kg of N/ha (Cl250) compared with a PRG-only sward receiving 250 kg of N/ha (Gr250) on herbage production, milk production, and herbage dry matter intake (DMI) in an intensive grass-based spring calving milk production system over 2 full lactations. A farm systems experiment was established in February 2013, and conducted over 2 grazing seasons [2013 (yr 1) and 2014 (yr 2)]. In February 2013 (yr 1), 42 Holstein-Friesian spring-calving dairy cows, and in February 2014 (yr 2), 57 Holstein-Friesian spring-calving dairy cows were allocated to graze the Cl150, Cl250, and Gr250 swards (n = 14 in yr 1 and n = 19 in yr 2) from February to November, at a stocking rate of 2.74 cows/ha. Herbage DMI was estimated twice in yr 1 (May and September) and 3 times in yr 2 (May, July, and September). Treatment did not have a significant effect on annual herbage production. Sward clover content was greater on the Cl150 treatment than the Cl250 treatment. The cows grazing both clover treatments (Cl250 and Cl150) produced more milk than the cows grazing Gr250 from June until the end of the grazing season. A significant treatment by measurement period interaction was observed on total DMI. In May, the cows on the Cl250 treatment had the greatest DMI. In July, the cows on the clover treatments had greater DMI than those on the Gr250 treatment, whereas in September, the cows on the Cl150 treatment had the lowest DMI. In conclusion, including clover in a PRG sward grazed by spring-calving dairy cows can result in increased animal performance, particularly in the second half of lactation. Reducing N fertilizer application to 150 kg of N/ha on grass-clover swards did not reduce herbage production compared with grass-only swards receiving 250 kg of N/ha. White clover can play an integral role in intensive grazing systems in terms of animal performance and herbage production.
    • 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.