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Milk yield and urinary-nitrogen excretion of dairy cows grazing forb pasture mixtures designed to reduce nitrogen leaching

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-03, 11:42 authored by Racheal Bryant, Brendon WeltenBrendon Welten, Des Costall, Paul ShortenPaul Shorten, Grant Edwards
The effect of including a mixture of forbs in a standard perennial ryegrass-white clover pasture, with or without Italian ryegrass was investigated in a two-period grazing study comparing urinary nitrogen (N) excretion and milk yield of dairy cows in late lactation. Forty-eight mixed age, Holstein Friesian x Jersey cows were assigned to replicated, balanced, groups of six and offered one of four pasture treatments. Pasture types were either a perennial ryegrass-based pasture (PRG) with white clover or a forb-containing mixed pasture (MIX) including perennial ryegrass, white clover, chicory, plantain and lucerne. A second factor was the inclusion of Italian ryegrass (PRG+I and MIX + I). During Period I, ten cows in each of the MIX and PRG treatments were fitted with urine sensors to measure urine N parameters (urination frequency, volume and N concentration). During Period II, milk yield was measured from cows on all four pasture types. In both the ryegrass and forb pasture types, legume content exceeded 30% of the DM and in forb pastures chicory and plantain accounted for over 30% of the DM. Italian ryegrass in the MIX+I and PRG+I was respectively 5% and 15% of the DM. Digestibility and crude protein was similar for all pasture types, but fibre content was lower for forb pastures. During Period I, there was no effect of pasture type on the amount of N per urination event (averaged 13 g N/event) and daily urine-N excreted (190 g N/cow/day). However, pasture type affected the diurnal pattern in urine-N excretion with MIX pastures having a lower urine N loading per event during the day and higher urine N loading at night compared with PRG pastures. During Period II, milk yield was greater for forb compared with ryegrass pasture types (1.66 vs 1.50 kg MS/cow/d). There was no effect of Italian ryegrass on milk yield due to low botanical content. This study demonstrated that forb containing pastures altered the diurnal pattern in urine-N excretion and offers opportunities to mitigate N leaching from grazed pastures whilst supporting high milk production in late lactation.


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© 2018 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


  • English

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Journal title

Livestock Science




Bryant, R. H., Welten, B. G., Costall, D., Shorten, P. R., & Edwards, G. R. (2018). Milk yield and urinary-nitrogen excretion of dairy cows grazing forb pasture mixtures designed to reduce nitrogen leaching. Livestock Science, 29, 46–53. doi:10.1016/j.livsci.2018.01.009


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