The multi-year cumulative effects of alternative stocking rate and grazing management practices on pasture productivity and utilization efficiency
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CitationB. McCarthy, L. Delaby, K.M. Pierce, J. McCarthy, C. Fleming, A. Brennan, B. Horan, The multi-year cumulative effects of alternative stocking rate and grazing management practices on pasture productivity and utilization efficiency, Journal of Dairy Science, Volume 99, Issue 5, 2016, Pages 3784-3797, ISSN 0022-0302, https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2015-9763.
AbstractThe production and utilization of increased quantities of high quality pasture is of paramount importance in pasture-based milk production systems. The objective of this study was to evaluate the cumulative effects of alternative integrated grazing strategies, incorporating alternative stocking rate (SR) and grazing severities, on pasture productivity and grazing efficiency over multiple years within farm systems using perennial ryegrass dominant pastures. Three whole-farm SR treatments were compared over 4 complete grazing seasons (2009 to 2012 inclusive): low (2.51 cows/ha; LSR), medium (2.92 cows/ha; MSR), and high (3.28 cows/ha; HSR). Each system had its own farmlet containing 18 paddocks and remained on the same treatment for the duration of the study. Stocking rate had a significant effect on all grazing variables with the exception of soil fertility status and sward density. Increased SR resulted in increased total annual net pasture accumulation, improved sward nutritive value, and increased grazed pasture utilization. Total annual net pasture accumulation was greatest in HSR [15,410 kg of dry matter (DM)/ha], intermediate for MSR (14,992 kg of DM/ha), and least for LSR (14,479 kg of DM/ha) during the 4-yr study period. A linear effect of SR on net pasture accumulation was detected with an increase in net pasture accumulation of 1,164.4 (SE = 432.7) kg of DM/ha for each 1 cow/ha increase in SR. Pregrazing pasture mass and height and postgrazing residual pasture mass and height were greatest for LSR, intermediate for the MSR, and lowest for the HSR. In comparison with the LSR, the imposition of a consistently increased grazing severity coupled with increased whole farm SR in MSR and HSR treatments arrested the decline in sward nutritive value, typically observed during mid-season. Incorporating the individual beneficial effects of SR on pasture accumulation, nutritive value, and utilization efficiency, total proportional energy (unité fourragère lait) utilization per hectare increased significantly with increasing SR (+0.026 and +0.081 for MSR and HSR, respectively). These results quantify the significant effect of grazing management practices on the feed production capability of modern perennial ryegrass pastures for intensive grazing dairy production systems. Furthermore, these results highlight the importance of consistently imposing grazing treatments over multiple years, and within integrated whole farm systems, to accurately assess the longer term effects of alternate grazing management practices on pasture productivity.
FunderIrish Farmers Dairy Levy; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme
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