Submitted to: Popular Publication
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: February 2, 2004
Publication Date: June 20, 2004
Citation: Soder, K.J., Sanderson, M.A., Muller, L. 2004. Can forage mixtures improve productivity of grazing dairy cows? Project Grass Magazine. p. 8-10. Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.
Technical Abstract: Twenty multiparous Holstein cows in mid-lactation grazed pastures of four forage mixtures in a 13-week study repeated during two grazing seasons to determine if forage mixtures affected intake and productivity of lactating dairy cows. The forage mixtures were: 1) orchardgrass plus white clover (2SP), 2) orchardgrass, white clover, and chicory (3SP), 3) orchardgrass, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, red clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and chicory (6SP), and 4) 6SP mix plus white clover, alfalfa, and Kentucky bluegrass (9SP). Total dry matter intake was not affected by treatment but was affected by year and averaged 22.9 kg/d in 2002 and 19.8 kg/d in 2003. Milk production and composition were not affected by treatment or year and averaged 34.6 kg/d, 3.4%, and 2.8% for milk production, milk fat percentage, and milk protein percentage, respectively. Blood glucose, blood urea nitrogen, and non-esterified fatty acids were not affected by pasture treatment. The complex mixtures (3SP, 6SP, and 9SP) produced more herbage than the simple orchardgrass-white clover (2SP) mixture during 2002 (drought), and also had reduced weed pressure. These results suggest that managing for a moderately complex (3 to 5 forage species) mixture of forages on pasture may result in greater carrying capacity of the pastures due to increased forage productivity and reduced weed competition, while maintaining animal productivity. Despite large shifts in species composition, proper grazing and supplementation management can buffer changes in milk production.