• 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.
    • 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.
    • 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, B.; Gilliland, T.J.; Delaby, L.; Guy, C.; Dineen, M.; Coughlan, F.; McCarthy, B.; Dairy Research Ireland; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (American Dairy Science Association, 2019-09)
      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
    • 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

      Gilliland, T.J.; Delaby, L.; Guy, C.; Dineen, M.; Coughlan, F.; McCarthy, B.; Irish Dairy Levy; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Programme (Elsevier, 2019-09-30)
      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.