Increasing the proportion of fresh grass in high yielding cow diets

Aims and Objectives

Feed and forage variable costs remain the largest cost in dairy production systems within GB. In addition, increased global demand for, and fluctuations in the availability and price of soya has led to an increase in the awareness of the value of home-grown, high quality forage. The use of grazed pasture for dairy cows can result in lower-cost feeding systems, and the majority of GB dairy farms are located in areas with significant potential for high herbage production. Whilst there is a significant body of research, both past and present, being undertaken into maximising the utilisation of fresh grass on extensive grazing dairy systems, our knowledge of the role of fresh herbage in the diet of high yielding cows remains limited.

The supply of fresh herbage alone is insufficient to support optimal dry matter intake (DMI) and milk production in high yielding cows, whilst maintaining high levels of pasture utilisation. However, more information on novel strategies which maximise the benefits of fresh grass as a lower-cost feeding option for high yielding cows is required.

Cut and carry systems are one mechanism by which farmers can incorporate fresh grass into the diet of high yielding cows, while maintaining high levels of pasture utilisation. However the impact of this on animal performance has not been investigated.

Expected outcomes

This study will:

  • Quantify changes to total feed intake, milk yield and milk quality resulting from adding fresh grass to the ration of high yielding dairy cows.
  • Determine the effects of manipulating the proportion of fresh grass added to the ration on total feed intake, milk yield and milk quality.
  • Understand any behavioural changes resulting from a change in diet which may contribute towards shifts in feed intake, milk yields and milk quality.
  • Quantify the economic costs and benefits of adding fresh grass to the diet.

Start Date
April 2014        

Completion Date
February 2015

Lead Contractor
SRUC – Grasslands Forage and Soils Research Partnership

Other Delivery Partners
Harper Adams University

University of Reading

Funder
AHDB Dairy

Report

Project Report - Increasing the proportion of fresh grass in the diet of high yielding cows

For further information please contact: Debbie.McConnell@ahdb.org.uk or call 024 7647 8704