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Dairy cows fed on tropical legume forages: effects on milk yield, nutrients use efficiency and profitability

Castro-Montoya, J.M., García, R.A., Ramos, R.A., Flores, J.M., Alas, E.A., Corea, E.E.
Tropical animal health and production 2018 v.50 no.4 pp. 837-843
Sorghum bicolor, Vigna unguiculata, cowpeas, dairy cows, digestibility, dry matter intake, farm profitability, feed prices, financial economics, forage, lipid content, milk fat, milk yield, neutral detergent fiber, nutrient use efficiency, protein sources, sorghum silage, soybean meal, soybeans
Two trials with multiparous dairy cows were conducted. Experiment 1 tested the effects of increasing forage proportion in the diet (500, 600, and 700 g/kg DM) when a mixed sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and jackbean (Cannavalia ensiformis) silage was used as forage. Experiment 2 studied the substitution of sorghum silage and soybean meal by jackbean silage or fresh cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) forage in the diet. All diets were iso-energetic and iso-proteic. In each experiment, 30 cows were used and separated into three groups. In experiment 1, there were no differences in dry matter intake (DMI), milk yield (MY), or apparent total tract digestibility (aTTd) among the three diets, but milk fat content increased with increasing forage proportion, even though the similar neutral detergent fiber of all diets. Nitrogen use efficiency was highest in the diet containing 600 g forage/kg DM, and some evidence was observed for a better profitability with this forage proportion. In experiment 2, feeding legumes increased DMI despite no effects on aTTd. Milk yield increased in line with DMI, with a larger increase for the fresh cowpea. Nitrogen use efficiency and milk composition were not affected by the diets. The increased MY and lower feed costs increased the economic benefits when feeding legumes, particularly when feeding fresh cowpea. Feeding fresh cowpea or jackbean silage to dairy cows appears to be an alternative to soybean as protein source, ideally at a forage proportions of 600 g/kg DM, without altering milk yield and quality and increasing the farm profitability.