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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #341335

Research Project: Improving Nutrient Use Efficiency and Mitigating Nutrient and Pathogen Losses from Dairy Production Systems

Location: Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Research

Title: Potential for sorghum forages for dairy heifers in the midwest

item Akins, Matthew - University Of Wisconsin
item Su, Huawei - University Of Wisconsin
item Remick, Elizabeth - University Of Wisconsin
item Grisham, Abbey - University Of Wisconsin
item Coblentz, Wayne

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/15/2017
Publication Date: 6/14/2017
Citation: Akins, M.S., Su, H., Remick, E., Grisham, A., Coblentz, W.K. 2017. Potential for sorghum forages for dairy heifers in the midwest. Meeting Proceedings. June 14-15, 2017.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Dairy heifers have lower dietary energy needs than lactating cows (63-65% TDN for 6-12 month old heifers; 58-60% TDN for >12 month old heifers), but forage-based diets containing significant amounts of corn silage often exceed the needs of pregnant heifers. Use of low-energy forages to decrease energy and increase NDF content has been successful in controlling intake and excessive weight gains by pregnant heifers. Based upon the studies summarized, sorghum forages would fit well in these diets with greater NDF (50-65% NDF) and reduced TDN (57-65% TDN) with the photo-sensitive and conventional (non-BMR) varieties having the lowest TDN values. The greater quality BMR sorghum forages would fit well into pre-breeding heifer or lactating-cow rations. A multi-cut system, compared to single-cut, will provide better quality forage if forage is needed for lactating cows. Yields from the 3 studies show that sorghum forages can have similar or greater yields to corn silage when planted in early to mid-June with sorghums being more responsive to reduced irrigation and nitrogen applications compared to corn. Most sorghums had yields at 50% or lower irrigation, or 50-100 lb N/acre that were similar or greater than yields of corn at the greatest irrigation and nitrogen rates. Costs of heifer forage production may be decreased by using sorghum forages due to lower seed costs and nutrient needs compared to corn, while maintaining similar yield production. Overall, sorghum forages are high yielding with lower energy content that is well-suited for dairy heifers.