Frequent allocation of rotationally grazed dairy cows changes grazing behavior and improves productivity

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

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Twenty Holstein cows were blocked in 2 groups according to milk yield to evaluate the effect of frequency of allocation to new grazing plots on pasture intake, grazing behavior, rumen characteristics, and milk yield. The 2 treatments, daily allocation to 0.125-ha plots (1D) or allocation every 4 d to 0.5-ha plots (4D) of Lolium perenne L., were tested in a randomized block design (2 rotations with 3 or 4 measuring periods of 4 d each) with mixed model analysis accounting for repeated measures. There were no differences in the chemical composition of offered pasture and in pasture dry matter intake (DMI) between 1D and 4D. However, an interaction between treatment and rotation indicated a difference in pasture DMI between treatments during the first rotation (4D, 16.5 vs. 1D, 18.3 kg/d) but not during the second rotation (4D, 15.0 vs. 1D, 14.7 kg/d), possibly a result of a greater pasture mass in the first rotation. Grazing time (average 562 min/d) and ruminating time (average 468 min/d), observed using IGER graze recorders, were similar between treatments, but grazing time increased numerically (549 to 568 min/d), and ruminating time decreased linearly (471 to 450 min/d) within periods in the 4D treatment. Mean rumen pH (6.16 vs. 6.05) and rumen NH3-N concentration (113.7 vs. 90.1 mg/L) were higher in 4D than in 1D, and total volatile fatty acid (VFA) concentrations did not differ. Molar proportions of VFA, except butyrate, differed between treatments, causing the nonglucogenic to glucogenic VFA ratio to be greater in 4D than in 1D. Within days in the 4D treatment, the molar proportion of acetate increased and those of all other VFA decreased linearly. Rumen NH3-N concentration within the 4D treatment declined quadratically from 170.3 mg/L on d 1 to 80.7 mg/L on d 4. In contrast to rumen NH3-N concentration, milk urea content did not differ between treatments, but decreased quadratically from d 1 to 4 in the 4D treatment (from 26.7 to 20.7 mg/dL). Mean fat- and protein-corrected milk was greater in 1D than in 4D (23.5 vs. 22.8 kg/d), mainly due to a difference in milk yield (24.5 vs. 23.7 kg/d). Fat and protein content were slightly lower in the 1D than in the 4D treatment (3.66 vs. 3.76% and 3.28 vs. 3.34%, respectively). This study confirmed that increasing pasture allocation frequency from once every 4 d to every day improved milk production in grazing dairy cows, especially when offered pasture was high.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2033-2045
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • water-soluble carbohydrate
  • lolium-perenne l.
  • milk-production
  • herbage allowance
  • rumen function
  • detergent fiber
  • early lactation
  • fatty-acids
  • ryegrass
  • ruminants


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