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Pasture Forages, Supplementation Rate, and Stocking Rate Effects on Dairy Cow Performance1

Journal of Dairy Science
American Dairy Science Association
DOI: 10.3168/jds.s0022-0302(03)73711-4
  • Nutrition
  • Feeding
  • And Calves
  • Biology
  • Design


Abstract Objectives were to evaluate effects of forage species, stocking rate, and supplementation rate on performance and physiology of grazing lactating Holstein cows under intensive rotational stocking management during summer. Eight treatments were arranged in a 2×2×2 factorial design. Animals (n=62) grazed pastures of Tifton 85 bermudagrass or Florigraze rhizoma peanut, a tropical legume. Low and high stocking rates were 7.5 and 10.0 cows/ha for bermudagrass and 5.0 and 7.5 cows/ha for rhizoma peanut. Within each forage-stocking rate combination, cows were fed supplement at 0.33 or 0.5kg of supplement (as-fed basis)/kg daily milk production. Cows grazing rhizoma peanut pastures produced more milk (16.9 vs. 15.4kg/d) but had higher rectal temperatures (39.4 vs. 39.1°C). Milk production per cow was improved at the higher stocking rate for bermudagrass but was reduced at the higher stocking rate for peanuts. Increasing supplementation rate boosted plasma glucose, milk production, and milk protein percent. Increased supplementation rate had a greater positive impact on milk production of cows grazing bermudagrass compared to rhizoma peanut (21.9 vs. 10.6% increase) due to a lower substitution of grain for forage intake. Organic matter intakes of forage, supplement, and total diet were greatest by cows grazing rhizoma peanut pastures and averaged 12.4, 6.1, and 18.5kg/d compared to 9.2, 5.4, and 14.6kg/d for cows grazing bermudagrass. Despite lower individual feed intake and performance, production per unit land area was 29% greater (112 vs. 90kg of milk/ha per d) for cows grazing bermudagrass due to the greater stocking rate possible with that forage. Only cows supplemented at the high rate and kept at the high stocking rate on bermudagrass maintained body weight. Cows on other treatments lost body weight. Tifton 85 bermudagrass appears to be an excellent summer forage for dairy cows grazing in the southeastern U.S. given its nutritive value characteristics and high yields. Optimum stocking rate may be as high as 10 cows/ha during times of peak growth of forage for low-to-moderately producing cows fed supplement. Furthermore, the positive milk production response to additional supplement when cows grazed Tifton 85 pastures (0.8kg/kg of supplement), indicates the value of providing supplement to cows grazing this moderate quality forage.

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