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Saturday 23 February 2019

Grazed pasture is a high-quality forage but could farmers be getting more out of it?

New research to look at the feeding value of grazed pasture

Inputs are required such as the animals’ current performance, body weight, body condition score, days in milk, while also requiring environmental inputs such as distance walked and ambient temperature.
Inputs are required such as the animals’ current performance, body weight, body condition score, days in milk, while also requiring environmental inputs such as distance walked and ambient temperature.
Catherine Hurley

Catherine Hurley

The current use of nutritional models in pasture-based systems is extremely limited, according to Teagasc Researcher Michael Dineen speaking at the recent National Dairy Conference.

He said a greater understanding of the specific nutrients first limiting milk solids production from grazed pasture has the potential to increase animal performance.

He spoke at the conference about a new collaborative project with Cornell University that is developing new tools to help further understand the feeding value of grazed pasture.

New feed chemistry analysis and nutritional modelling are providing new insights into the feeding value of pasture and how it’s utilised by the lactating dairy cow, he explained at the conference.

He also said there is opportunity to consistently increase milk solids production from pasture-based systems as evident when white clover is incorporated into perennial ryegrass swards.

He said by incorporating these in-depth feed chemistry techniques, a more quantitative approach will be utilised to help understand the feed value of grazed grass going forward and what nutrients are first limiting milk production from grazed pasture.

He explained that inputs are required such as the animals’ current performance, body weight, body condition score, days in milk, while also requiring environmental inputs such as distance walked and ambient temperature.

This information is used to calculate the animal requirements for the amount of energy and protein required to meet physiological needs such as maintenance, pregnancy, lactation, growth and reserves, according to the Researcher.

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On the supply side, the model utilises the most modern feed chemistry analysis and combines it with mathematical approaches to determine the diets adequacy in meeting the animal’s requirements, he explained.

The model develops estimations of carbohydrate and protein degradation and passage rates to predict the extent of ruminal fermentation, microbial growth, and the absorption of metabolisable energy (ME) and metabolisable protein (MP) throughout the gastrointestinal tract, according to Michael.

The overall goal of the programme is to help quantify the nutrient(s) first limiting milk production output and feed conversion efficiency in pasture-based systems and to provide ways to complement such forages in a sustainable manner.

Grazed pasture is a high-quality forage but its feed chemistry can vary due to seasonal and climatic variations, according to the Fermoy-based Researcher. 

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