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J Dairy Sci. 2006 Jun;89(6):2158-67.

Intake and performance of lactating cows grazing diverse forage mixtures.

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USDA/Agricultural Research Service, Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, University Park, PA 16802-3702, USA.


Twenty multiparous Holstein cows in midlactation grazed pastures of 4 forage mixtures in a 12-wk study repeated during 2 grazing seasons to determine if forage mixture complexity affected intake and productivity of lactating dairy cows. The forage mixtures were 1) orchardgrass plus white clover [2 species (SP)]; 2) orchardgrass, white clover, and chicory (3SP); 3) orchardgrass, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, red clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and chicory (6SP); and 4) 6SP mixture plus white clover, alfalfa, and Kentucky bluegrass (9SP). Total herbage intake was similar among forage mixtures, averaging 12.0 kg/d across all forage mixtures and years. Milk production and composition were not affected by forage mixture or year, and averaged 34.6 kg/d, 3.4%, and 2.8% for milk production, milk fat percentage, and milk protein percentage, respectively. The conjugated linoleic acid content of milk fat was higher for cows that grazed the 3SP, 6SP, and 9SP mixtures than from cows that grazed the 2SP mixture (1.02 vs. 0.87 g of conjugated linoleic acid/100 g of fatty acids, respectively). Blood glucose, blood urea nitrogen, and nonesterified fatty acids were not affected by forage mixture and averaged 69.2 mg/dL, 13.4 mg/dL, and 277.5 muEq/L, respectively. The results of this study indicate that altering the forage mixture in pastures did not affect dry matter intake, milk production, or blood metabolite profiles of lactating cows. The use of complex mixtures of forages in grazing systems should not affect dairy cow performance.

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