Effect of daily movement of dairy cattle to fresh grass in morning or afternoon on intake, grazing behaviour, rumen fermentation and milk production

P.A. Abrahamse, S. Tamminga, J. Dijkstra

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Twenty Holstein cows were split into two equal groups to test the effect of daily move to a previously ungrazed strip after morning milking (MA) or afternoon milking (AA) on herbage intake, grazing behaviour, rumen characteristics and milk production using a randomized block design with three periods of 14 days each. Milking took place at 06.00 and 16.00 h. The chemical composition of grass was similar between treatments, but an interaction between treatment and time of sampling was found in all variables except acid detergent lignin (ADL). The most pronounced differences existed in sugar content. Grass sugar content was greatest following afternoon milking. However, the difference in sugar content in grass was much larger in MA (158 v 114 g/kg dry matter (DM) at 16.00 and 06.00 h, respectively) than in AA (147 v 129 g/kg DM at 16.00 and 06.00 h, respectively). Neutral detergent fibre (NDF) was significantly higher at 06.00 h than at 16.00 h (469 v 425 g/kg DM) in AA, but was equal between morning and afternoon in MA (453 g/kg DM). Herbage intake, determined using the n-alkane technique, did not differ between treatments. Grazing behaviour observed using IGER graze recorders were similar between treatments, except for ruminating time, bite rate and the number of ruminations and boli per period of the day. However, interactions between treatment and time in grazing behaviour variables were found. Grazing time was longer and number of bites was greater following allocation to a new plot (after milking in the morning in MA or milking in the afternoon in AA) when compared to allocation to the same plot after the subsequent milking per treatment (after milking in the afternoon or morning in MA and AA, respectively). In comparison to AA, grazing time in MA was more evenly distributed during the day but lower during the night. The combined effects of differences in grazing behaviour and chemical composition of the grass between treatments in different periods of the day probably caused higher intake of sugars in AA, resulting in a significantly higher non-glucogenic to glucogenic volatile fatty acid ratio (NGR) in the rumen in AA than MA. Milk fat content was lower in MA than AA, but milk production and milk protein and lactose content did not differ. In conclusion, time of allocation to a fresh plot altered the distribution of grazing behaviour variables over the day, and affected NGR and milk fat content, but herbage intake and milk production were not changed
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)721-730
JournalThe Journal of Agricultural Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • lolium-perenne l.
  • water-soluble carbohydrate
  • ingestive behavior
  • ryegrass cultivars
  • cows
  • allocation
  • patterns
  • system
  • performance
  • lactation

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