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Effect of 3 autumn pasture management strategies applied to 2 farm system intensities on the productivity of spring-calving, pasture-based dairy systems

Abstract : The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of altering autumn pasture availability and farm system intensity on the productivity of spring-calving dairy cows during autumn. A total of 144 Holstein-Friesian and Holstein-Friesian × Jersey crossbred dairy cows were randomly assigned to 2 whole farm system (FS) intensities and 3 autumn pasture availability (PA; measured above 3.5 cm) treatments in a 2 × 3 factorial arrangement. The 2 farm systems consisted of a medium intensity (MI: 2.75 cows/ha, target postgrazing sward height of 4.0-4.5 cm) and high intensity system (HI: 3.25 cows/ha, target postgrazing sward height of 3.5-4.0 cm, + 1.8 kg of concentrate dry matter [(DM)/cow per day]. Within each farm system treatment, cows were further subdivided into 3 different PA management strategies: high PA (HPA), medium PA (MPA), and low PA (LPA). The experimental period lasted for 11 wk from September 1 to housing of all animals on November 20 (±2 d) over 3 yr (2017-2019, inclusive). To establish the different average pasture covers for each PA treatment during autumn and in particular at the end of the grazing season, grazing rotation length was extended by +13 and +7 d for HPA and MPA, respectively, beyond that required by LPA (37 d). There were no significant FS × PA interactions for any of the pasture, dry matter intake, or milk production and composition variables analyzed. There were also no differences in pregrazing sward characteristics or sward nutritive value between FS with the exception of daily herbage allowance, which was reduced for HI system (12.2 vs. 14.2 kg of DM/cow). Milk and milk solid yield were greater for HI groups (15.9 and 1.55 kg/cow per day, respectively) compared with MI (15.4 and 1.50 kg/cow per day, respectively). Mean paddock pregrazing herbage mass was significantly higher with increased PA ranging from a mean of 1,297 kg of DM/ha for LPA to 1,718 and 2,111 kg of DM/ha of available pasture for MPA and HPA, respectively. Despite large differences in pregrazing herbage mass, there was no difference in cumulative pasture production and only modest differences in grazing efficiency and sward nutritive value between PA treatments. On average, closing pasture covers were 420, 650, and 870 kg of DM/ha for LPA, MPA, and HPA, respectively, on December 1. In addition to maintaining similar grazing season lengths and achieving big differences in availability of pasture on farm into late autumn, PA treatment had no significant effect on dry matter intake, milk production, and body condition score during the study period. The results of this study indicate that greater cow performance and pasture utilization can be achieved through a greater daily concentrate allocation along with an increased stocking rate. Moreover, the potential to adapt grazing management practices to increase the average autumn pasture cover in intensive grazing systems is highlighted. In addition, a high dependence on high-quality grazed pasture during late autumn can be ensured without compromising grazing season length while also allowing additional pasture to be available for the subsequent spring.
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Contributor : Emilie Bernard <>
Submitted on : Friday, April 2, 2021 - 3:10:34 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, June 10, 2021 - 11:16:06 AM


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S.H. Evers, Luc Delaby, C. Fleming, K.M. Pierce, B. Horan. Effect of 3 autumn pasture management strategies applied to 2 farm system intensities on the productivity of spring-calving, pasture-based dairy systems. Journal of Dairy Science, American Dairy Science Association, 2021, 104 (6), pp.6803-6819. ⟨10.3168/jds.2020-19246⟩. ⟨hal-03188861⟩



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