The nutritional value of legumes for high milk production is seldom captured because grazed dairy pastures in NZ typically contain insufficient legume to satisfy the cows’ requirements. This paper reports interim results from a project investigating novel methods of forage presentation to cows, to enhance the contribution of legume to their diet. Four groups of spring-calving cows (n=5) in late-lactation were allocated to four treatments in a balanced, cross-over design. Two treatments consisted of spatial and temporal arrangements of grass and white clover allocated to cows as follows: i) continuous free access to grass and white clover growing separately as side-by-side monocultures (G/C) and ii) grass-only at `night` between the afternoon and morning milking and clover-only during the `day` between morning and afternoon milking (GnCd). These were compared against controls of iii) a typical mixed ryegrass-white clover pasture (Mix; an industry standard) and iv) a ryegrass-only pasture (Grass; a forage standard). Cows grazed each treatment for 8 days before moving to the next treatment in the pre-determined sequence. Measurements included milk production and composition, the time spent grazing during the day and the night (separately for grass and white clover in G/C) and the concentrations in the milk of skatole and indole, as metabolic indicators of nutrient acquisition and utilisation in the contrasting forage treatments. Cows offered G/C or GnCd produced 19.4 and 17.9 kg milk/cow/day, respectively, compared with 15.0 and 14.6 kg/cow/day when offered Mix or Grass, respectively (P=0.01, SEM=0.74). The diurnal distribution of grazing was influenced by pasture treatment (treatment x time interaction P <0.001). Cows on G/C grazed proportionately more at ‘night’ and cows on GnCd proportionately less at ‘night’ compared with Grass or Mix. GnCd constrained the cows to spend less time grazing clover than those offered G/C (245 vs. 408 mins grazing clover during 24 hrs) and more time grazing grass (253 vs. 105 mins in 24 hrs). The apparent `restriction` in GnCd to grazing clover-only during the day did not significantly reduce milk yield compared with G/C. The spatial and temporal allocations of grass and clover affected the concentrations of indolic compounds in PM and AM milk, suggesting there is scope to improve the efficiency of protein utilisation in the rumen.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 66, Napier, 42-49, 2006
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