Early lactation feed intake and milk yield responses of dairy cows offered grass silages harvested at early maturity stages

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

The main objective was to evaluate the potential of grass silages of very high quality to support a high milk yield with a low or moderate, or even without concentrate supplementation. Production responses to increased levels of concentrate supplementation with 3 primary growth grass silages differing in digestibility were studied using 66 Norwegian Red dairy cows. Roundbale silage was produced from a timothy-dominated sward at very early (H1), early (H2), and normal (H3) stages of crop maturity. Crops were rapidly wilted (<24h) and a formic acid-based additive was applied. All silages were restrictedly fermented. Silage digestible organic matter in dry matter (DM) values were 747, 708, and 647 g/kg of DM for H1, H2, and H3, respectively. Dietary treatments were fed in a 3×3 factorial arrangement of the 3 silages supplemented with 3 concentrate levels (4, 8, and 12 kg/d) and, additionally, H1 was offered without concentrates and H3 with 16 kg/d, giving a total of 11 diets. Cows, blocked according to parity and calving date, were introduced to the experiment before calving and kept in the experiment until wk 16 of lactation. Silage was offered ad libitum in loose housing and concentrate was available in automatic feed stations. Intake of grass silage when fed as the sole feed was 16.9 kg of DM on average for lactation wk 1 to 16. When H1 was supplemented with 4 or 8 kg of concentrates, silage DM intake did not change, but total DM intake increased to 20.6 and 23.7 kg/d, respectively. Energy-corrected milk (ECM) yield increased from 23.4 kg when H1 was offered without concentrate supplement to 29.1 and 32.8 kg when supplemented with 4 or 8 kg concentrate, respectively. None of the other diets equaled the yield obtained by H1 plus 8 kg of concentrate. Feed intake and yield of cows offered H3 plus 4 kg of concentrates were strongly constrained by high dietary fiber concentration. They consumed 16.5 g of neutral detergent fiber/kg of body weight and spent more time eating silage than cows offered other diets. The highest concentrate level within each silage quality produced similar or lower ECM yield than that with 4 kg less concentrates. The obtained milk yield responses suggest that provision of 8.0, 8.4, and 11.5 kg of concentrates to H1, H2, and H3, respectively, would maximize ECM yield within each silage type. However, H1 may successfully be used with less concentrates, or even without, if future conditions should limit the amount of concentrates available for ruminant production.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)304-317
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2012

ID: 37581789