Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/15/2020
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: No Interpretive Summary is required for this Abstract Only. JLB.
Technical Abstract: High-quality forages are the pillar of any dairy operation to achieve optimal levels of milk production. Forage quality in pastures can be impacted daily by factors such as forage species composition, weather patterns, and grazing management that create unique challenges in maintaining animal health and consistent productivity in grazing dairy herds. Supplementation strategies, including conserved forages, concentrates, by-products, and TMR, are often used to balance nutritional deficiencies in pastures. However, by the time the results of a pasture forage test are received, the cows have either already grazed that paddock, or the growing forages have significantly matured, causing producers and nutritionists to question the value of such forage tests. Additionally, some grazing strategies (e.g., mob grazing) and milk markets (e.g., organic, grassfed) limit the use of some supplementation strategies, therefore improving forage quality is of utmost importance to meet the nutritional needs of dairy cows. While cool-season perennial grass-legume pastures are the mainstay in temperate environments of the US, as weather patterns change and production methods evolve, alternative forages are being included in grazing systems to improve forage quality and/or extend the grazing season. Forage options to be discussed in this symposium include establishing novel forage mixtures, interseeding forages, grazing cover crops, use of warm- and cool-season annuals, and grazing brassicas. Another critical aspect in linking forage quality to animal performance is understanding grazing behavior of dairy cows in relation to forage conditions. This review will give a summary of research on the link between pasture forage quality and performance of grazing dairy cows, including various management strategies to improve animal and pasture production for improved economic and environmental sustainability of pasture-based dairy farms. Future research needs will also be discussed, including high-energy forages, changing weather patterns, cow genetics adapted to grazing systems, and changing milk markets.