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Effect of altering the grazing interval on growth and utilization of grass herbage and performance of dairy cows under rotational grazing

Dale, A.J., Mayne, C.S., Laidlaw, A.S., Ferris, C.P.
Grass and forage science 2008 v.63 no.2 pp. 257-269
animal performance, dairy cows, forage, grasses, grazing intensity, growth retardation, milk, nitrogen fertilizers, rotational grazing, sward
The effects of short grazing intervals in the early part of the grazing season on the growth and utilization of grass herbage, and the performance of grazing dairy cows, in a rotational grazing system were examined. Seventy-six cows were allocated to two grazing treatments: a normal rotation treatment (20-d rotations for the first 60 d) and a short rotation treatment (12-, 8-, 8-, 8-, 12- and 12-day rotations). Thereafter, both treatments had the same grazing interval and over the season as a whole both treatments received the same amount of nitrogen fertilizer and were stocked at the same rate. The short rotation treatment significantly reduced pre- and post-grazing sward heights and pre-grazing herbage mass in May and June. Total herbage production was significantly lower on the short than the normal rotation treatment as a result of a significant reduction in the growth rate of herbage in May and June. The short rotation treatment had a significantly lower milk output per cow. Grazing shorter swards, as a result of shorter rotations, significantly reduced herbage intake, reflecting reductions in intake per bite, grazing time and total bites per day. Treatment had no significant effect on herbage quality or pre- and post-grazing sward height in August and September, despite the increased grazing severity in May and June with the short rotations. The severity of rotation length in this instance had a detrimental impact on animal performance, whereas a more modest reduction in grazing interval may control herbage production, without reducing animal performance.