Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » University Park, Pennsylvania » Pasture Systems & Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #267117

Title: Can forage mixtures improve productivity of grazing dairy cows

item Soder, Kathy
item Goslee, Sarah
item Sanderson, Matt

Submitted to: Popular Publication
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/20/2011
Publication Date: 6/6/2011
Citation: Soder, K.J., Goslee, S.C., Sanderson, M.A. 2011. Can forage mixtures improve productivity of grazing dairy cows. Popular Publication. 11(3):10-13.

Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.

Technical Abstract: Maximizing intake of lactating dairy cows is crucial in maintaining high levels of milk production, especially when grazing. Intake can be strongly affected by the amount and type of forage offered to the animals. Pastures containing multiple plant species have been shown to have greater plant productivity than pasture planted with a single plant species. However, it has not been determined whether this increase in plant productivity translates into increased animal productivity. Therefore, a study was designed to evaluate the effects of varying levels of plant species diversity on intake, grazing behavior, and productivity of lactating dairy cows. Sixteen lactating dairy cows were grazed in four groups on one of four pasture treatments. Pasture treatments were: a two-species forage mix, a three-species mix, a six-species mix, or a nine-species mix. Cows received supplementation and were grazed for 21 days on each pasture treatment and then switched treatments so that all cows were on all pasture treatments by the end of the trial. The results indicate that the level of plant species diversity on pastures did not have a major impact on intake or productivity of grazing dairy cows. However, forage production and carrying capacity of the pastures were greater on the more complex mixtures.