Grazing and Feeding Management of Lactating Dairy Cows


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Virginia Tech


Two studies were conducted during the grazing season of 1997. Study 1 consisted of three Experiments, and the objectives were to compare milk production and composition, body weight change and body condition score, and to determine time patterns of grazing between cows supplemented with different forms and amounts of corn. Also rumen fermentation parameters were measured in cows supplemented with two different types of corn. In study 2, milk yield was measured when grazing pasture was supplemented to lactating Holstein cows fed a typical TMR diet. Predominantly orchardgrass pastures with lesser amounts of white clover and Kentucky bluegrass were grazed during both studies. In Experiment 1, 36 Holstein cows were supplemented either with 6, 6, 6, or 4 kg/d DM of high moisture corn, coarsely ground corn, finely ground corn, or high moisture corn in two equal feedings, respectively. Milk yield was similar (30.3 kg/d) among treatments. Milk protein (2.97%) and MUN (14.7 mg/dl) did not differ among treatments. Body weight change and body condition score change were similar among treatments (23.1 kg and -0.24). During Experiment 2, four rumen-cannulated cows in mid-lactation were supplemented 6 kg/d DM of either coarsely ground corn or high moisture corn in two equal feedings. After the p.m. milking, ruminal pH was measured and rumen fluid samples were collected to determine ammonia N and VFA. While grazing, this was repeated at 0.5, 1, 2, 3,...8 h post-corn feeding (0 h). Ruminal pH was similar for both corn supplements and was lowest (5.9 and 5.8) at 5 and 8 h, respectively. Rumen ammonia N concentrations started to increase approximately 2 h after cows began grazing, reaching maximum levels 5 h later. In Experiment 3, the number of cows grazing, lying, or standing were recorded every half hour, for two consecutive days, while grazing. Cows grazed an average of 6.4 h/d, 4.1 h in the afternoon and 2.3 h in the morning. Similarity in milk production, milk composition, BW change, and BCS between treatments indicates that the quality and availability of pasture permitted equal response regardless of the type or amount of corn supplemented. Fifty four Holstein cows in mid lactation were used in Study 2. Cows were fed either a TMR diet only, or were fed TMR during half of the day (after the a.m. or p.m. milking according to the treatment) and supplemented with grazing pasture during the other half of the day. Milk production was slightly but significantly higher for cows on the TMR treatment (29.1 vs. 28.2 and 27.6). No significant difference between treatments was observed in FCM (27.7 kg/d), and milk fat (3.47) and protein percentage (3.23). While BW change did not differ among treatments (25.7 kg), body condition score increased more in cows fed only a TMR diet (0.14 vs. -0.06 and 0.01). The TMR intake was significantly different between treatments, being highest for cows on the TMR treatment and lowest for cows grazing after the p.m. milking (26.6 vs. 20.3 vs. 17.5 kg/d DM). Income over feed cost differed between treatments, and was approximately 15.3% higher for cows supplemented with high quality pasture during the afternoon compared to cows on TMR. Dairy farmers may obtain economical benefits by practicing this type of management during the grazing season with little effect on milk yield.



HMC, stocking rate, milk production, ammonia N, rumen fermentation, grazing behavior, pasture supplementation, orchardgrass, pasture yield, TMR intake