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Pasture allowance and duration: the effect of restriction on dry-matter intake, energy balance and indicators of metabolic health in early lactation dairy cows

Abstract : Context: Pasture allowance (PA) in early lactation is widely acknowledged to influence animal performance; however, climatic factors can limit grass growth in early spring, resulting in potential feed deficits on farm. Aim: The present study determined whether PA restrictions imposed in early lactation impair energy balance and metabolic health of the cow. Methods: One hundred and five cows were assigned to one of seven grazing treatments from 14 March to 4 July 2016 (16 weeks). The control-treatment cows were offered a PA to achieve a post-grazing sward height of 3.5 cm. The cows on the remaining treatments were offered a PA representing 60% of that offered to the control cows for a duration of 2 or 6 weeks from 14 March (mid-March; MMx2 and MMx6), 28 March (end-March; EMx2 and EMx6) or 11 April (mid-April; MAx2 and MAx6). Measurements were collected over the final 2-week period of the restriction for each individual restricted treatment and the control treatment. Key results: Restricting PA in early lactation (34–88 days in milk) resulted in a mean reduction in dry-matter intake (DMI) of 25%; however, DMI as a proportion of the control treatment declined for EMx6 (75% of control DMI achieved) and MAx6 (65%) compared with the MMx6 (78%), which may be attributable to changes in the sward, as the plant changes from the vegetative to reproductive phase during this period. The reduction in milk production, relative to the control treatment, was similar among all restricted treatments (18%), resulting in a 1.1-kg reduction in milk output per 1-kg reduction in DMI. However, there was no effect of PA restriction or duration on body condition score, energy balance or blood metabolites, suggesting that the animals used in the current study made sufficient physiological adaptions to partition energy for the maintenance of body reserves. Conclusion: In conclusion, short-term restrictions of PA up to 25% of DMI, for up to 6 weeks, can be used as a management strategy to cope with feed deficits in early lactation without impairing normal metabolic function of the early lactation dairy cow. Implications: The results of the present study identified the ability of the early lactation dairy cow at grass to adapt to short-term deficits in pasture availability, without affecting the metabolic functioning of the animals.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-02954745
Contributor : Emilie Bernard <>
Submitted on : Thursday, October 1, 2020 - 12:04:00 PM
Last modification on : Monday, March 22, 2021 - 2:22:08 PM

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Aisling Claffey, Luc Delaby, Eva Lewis, Tommy Boland, Norann Galvin, et al.. Pasture allowance and duration: the effect of restriction on dry-matter intake, energy balance and indicators of metabolic health in early lactation dairy cows. Animal Production Science, In press, ⟨10.1071/AN20066⟩. ⟨hal-02954745⟩

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