Increased concentration of water-soluble carbohydrate in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.). Milk production from late-lactation dairy cows

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-394
Number of pages12
JournalGrass and Forage Science
Volume56
Issue number4
DOI
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2001
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Abstract

Eight multiparous Holstein–Friesian dairy cows in late lactation were used to investigate the potential of using perennial ryegrass with a high concentration of water-soluble carbohydrate (WSC) to increase the efficiency of milk production. After a pretreatment period on a common pasture, the cows were each given ad libitum access to one of two varieties of zero-grazed grass continuously for 3 weeks. Treatments were: high sugar (HS), an experimental perennial ryegrass variety bred to contain high concentrations of WSC; or control, a standard variety of perennial ryegrass (cv. AberElan) containing typical concentrations of WSC. The two grass varieties were matched in terms of heading date. All animals also received 4 kg day–1 standard dairy concentrate. Grass dry matter (DM) intake was not significantly different between treatments (11·6 vs. 10·7 kg DM day–1; s.e.d. 0·95 for HS and control diets respectively), although DM digestibility was higher on the HS diet (0·71 vs. 0·64 g g–1 DM; s.e.d. 0·23; P <0·01) leading to higher digestible DM intakes for that diet. Milk yield from animals offered the HS diet was higher (15·3 vs. 12·6 kg day–1; s.e.d. 0·87; P <0·05) and, although milk constituent concentrations were unaffected by treatment, milk protein yields were significantly increased on the HS diet. The partitioning of feed N was significantly affected by diet, with more N from the HS diet being used for milk production (0·30 vs. 0·23 g milk N g–1 feed N; s.e.d. 0·012; P <0·01) and less being excreted in urine (0·25 vs. 0·35; s.e.d. 0·020; P <0·01). In a separate experiment, using the same grasses harvested earlier in the season, the fractional rate of DM degradation, measured by in situ and gas production techniques, was higher for the HS grass than for the control. It is concluded that increased digestible DM intakes of the HS grass led to increased milk yields, whereas increased efficiency of utilization of the HS grass in the rumen resulted in the more efficient use of feed N for milk production and reduced N excretion.