Milk production, grazing behavior and nutritional status of dairy cows grazing two herbage allowances during winter
Winter grazing provides a useful means for increasing the proportion of grazed herbage in the annual diet of dairy cows. This season is characterized by low herbage growth rate, low herbage allowance, and low herbage intake and hence greater needs for supplements to supply the requirements of lactating dairy cows. The aim of this study was to determine the influence of herbage allowance (HA) offered to autumn calving dairy cows grazing winter herbage on milk production, nutritional status, and grazing behavior. The study took 63 d using 32 multiparous Holstein-Friesian dairy cows. Prior to experimental treatment, milk production averaged 20.2 ± 1.7 kg d-1, body weight was 503 ± 19 kg, and days in milking were 103 ± 6. Experimental animals were randomly assigned to two treatments according to HA offered above ground level: low (17 kg DM cow-1 d-1) vs. high HA (25 kg DM cow¹ d¹). All cows were supplemented with grass silage supplying daily 6.25 and 4.6 kg DM of concentrate (concentrate commercial plus high corn moisture). Decreasing HA influenced positively milk production (+25%), milk protein (+20 kg), and milk fat (+17 kg) per hectare; however no effects on milk production per cow or energy metabolic status were observed in the cows. In conclusion, a low HA showed to be the most significant influencing factor on milk and milk solids production per hectare in dairy cows grazing restricted winter and supplemented with grass silage and concentrate; but no effect on the milk production per cow was found.