• 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.
    • Forage type influences milk yield and ruminal responses to wheat adaptation in late-lactation dairy cows

      Russo, Victoria M.; Leury, B.J.; Kennedy, Emer; Hannah, M.C.; Auldist, M.J.; Wales, W.J.; Agriculture Victoria Research; Dairy Australia; Teagasc; The University of Melbourne (Elsevier, 2018-08-23)
      The effects of different wheat adaptation strategies on ruminal fluid pH, dry matter intake (DMI) and energy-corrected milk (ECM) were measured in 28 late-lactation dairy cows. Cows were fed either perennial ryegrass (PRG) hay or alfalfa hay and had no previous wheat adaptation. Wheat was gradually substituted for forage in 3 even increments, over 6 or 11 d, until wheat made up 40% of DMI (∼8 kg of dry matter/cow per day). We found no differences in DMI between adaptation strategies (6 or 11 d) within forage type; however, cows fed alfalfa hay consumed more overall and produced more ECM. The rate of ruminal pH decline after feeding, as well as the decrease in mean, minimum, and maximum ruminal pH with every additional kilogram of wheat was greater for cows fed alfalfa hay. Cows fed alfalfa hay and on the 6-d adaptation strategy had the lowest mean and minimum ruminal fluid pH on 3 consecutive days and were the only treatment group to record pH values below 6.0. Despite ruminal pH declining to levels typically considered low, no other measured parameters indicated compromised fermentation or acidosis. Rather, cows fed alfalfa hay and adapted to wheat over 6 d had greater ECM yields than cows on the 11-d strategy. This was due to the 6-d adaptation strategy increasing the metabolizable energy intake in a shorter period than the 11-d strategy, as substituting wheat for alfalfa hay caused a substantial increase in the metabolizable energy concentration of the diet. We found no difference in ECM between adaptation strategies when PRG hay was fed, as there was no difference in metabolizable energy intake. The higher metabolizable energy concentration and lower intake of the PRG hay meant the increase in metabolizable energy intake with the substitution of wheat was less pronounced for cows consuming PRG hay compared with alfalfa hay. Neither forage type nor adaptation strategy affected time spent ruminating. The higher intakes likely contributed to the lower ruminal pH values from the alfalfa hay treatments. However, both forages allowed the rumen contents to resist the large declines in ruminal pH typically seen during rapid grain adaptation. Depending on the choice of base forage, rapid grain introduction may not result in poor adaptation. In situations where high-energy grains are substituted for a low-energy, high-fiber basal forage, rapid introduction could prove beneficial over gradual strategies.
    • Plant traits of grass and legume species for flood resilience and N2O mitigation

      Oram, Natalie J.; Sun, Yan; Abalos, Diego; Groenigen, Jan Willem; Hartley, Sue; De Deyn, Gerlinde B.; European Union; Teagasc; 754380 (Wiley, 2021-07-11)
      1. Flooding threatens the functioning of managed grasslands by decreasing primary productivity and increasing nitrogen losses, notably as the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). Sowing species with traits that promote flood resilience and mitigate flood-induced N2O emissions within these grasslands could safeguard their productivity while mitigating nitrogen losses. We tested how plant traits and resource acquisition strategies could predict flood resilience and N2O emissions of 12 common grassland species (eight grasses and four legumes) grown in field soil in monocultures in a 14-week greenhouse experiment. We found that grasses were more resistant to flooding while legumes recovered better. Resource-conservative grass species had higher resistance while resource-acquisitive grasses species recovered better. Resilient grass and legume species lowered cumulative N2O emissions. Grasses with lower inherent leaf and root δ13C (and legumes with lower root δ13C) lowered cumulative N2O emissions during and after the flood. Our results highlight the differing responses of grasses with contrasting resource acquisition strategies, and of legumes to flooding. Combining grasses and legumes based on their traits and resource acquisition strategies could increase the flood resilience of managed grasslands, and their capability to mitigate flood-induced N2O emissions. A free Plain Language Summary can be found within the Supporting Information of this article.