An assessment of the relative importance of specific traits for the genetic improvement of nutritive value in dairy pasture

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There have been few successful programmes to select forage plants with improved nutritive value for dairy cattle, despite the implications of improved forage quality for dairy production. Part of this lack of progress has been attributed to differences in opinion on the relative importance of improving individual traits relating to nutritive value. This paper reports the use of the Delphi survey technique to obtain an estimate of the priority for improvement of individual nutritive value traits among a large group of respondents. The Delphi technique has been used previously to rank nutritive value traits in forages for liveweight gain and wool production (Wheeler and Corbett, 1989, Grass and Forage Science, 44, 77–83). Increasing dry-matter digestibility (DMD) was ranked as the most important goal for grasses; increased non-structural carbohydrate (WSC) and improved rate of digestion were ranked second and third in importance. The absence of anti-quality factors, and an ‘optimal ratio’ of rumen degradable protein to undegradable protein (RDP/UDP) were ranked most highly for legumes, with increased DMD and WSC following closely behind. Increased magnesium and increased lipid content were ranked lowest for both grasses and legumes. Similar rankings were achieved when mean rankings from Australian and New Zealand scientists were compared with those from US and European scientists. Rankings were also similar when results from nutrition scientists were compared with those from plant breeders/agronomists.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Agriculture Victoria, Pastoral and Veterinary Institute, Hamilton, Victoria, Australia

Publication date: June 1, 1997

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