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Effects of feeding clover silages on feed intake, milk production and digestion in dairy cows

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Silages were made from pure crops of perennial ryegrass, red clover and white clover over 2 years. In all but one case the silage was stored as bales. A silage additive specially adapted for bales (Kofasil UltraTM) was used for all silages and they were all of good hygienic quality. The additive contained sodium nitrite, hexamethylene, tetraamine sodium bensoate and sodium propionate. The silages were offered ad libitum, either pure or mixed [grass/clover 0·50/0·50 on a dry-matter (DM) basis] with a fixed amount (8 kg) of concentrate. Two experiments, one in each year, were performed with high-yielding multiparous dairy cows in mid-lactation, and both rumen-cannulated and intact cows were used. The experiments were carried out using an incomplete changeover design with fifteen cows and five treatments each year.

The cows consumed large quantities of these silages (12·7–16·3 kg DM per cow per day). The highest intakes were obtained when the red clover and the 0·50 red clover:0·50 perennial ryegrass silage diets were offered. However, there was a difference between years. In year 1, 0·50 red clover:0·50 perennial ryegrass and 0·50 white clover:0·50 perennial ryegrass silage diets showed the highest intakes while pure perennial ryegrass and white clover silage diets gave lower intakes. In year 2 the highest intake of silage was obtained when the diet containing silage from red clover from a second cut was offered, while the silage from red clover from a first cut gave the lowest intake. The voluntary intakes of silages from white clover and perennial ryegrass were intermediate. No cases of bloat or other digestive disturbances were observed. Milk yield was significantly lower for the perennial ryegrass silage diet compared with all other diets in year 1. In year 2 milk yield was highest for the white clover silage diets and lowest for the red clover silage diets from both cuts. In year 1 there were relatively small differences in milk composition while in year 2 milk fat content was significantly lower with white clover silage diet and milk protein content was significantly higher with the perennial ryegrass diet. The overall conclusion from these experiments was that cows were able to consume large quantities of pure legume silage without serious disturbance to their metabolism. Differences in measurements of rumen metabolism were found between diets and especially between years. Milk production differences appears to be coupled to both differences in rumen physical characteristics, such as passage rate and particle size as well as differences in volatile fatty acid production in the rumen.
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Keywords: legumes; perennial ryegrass; protein efficiency; red clover; rumen characteristics; white clover

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Animal Nutrition and Management, Kungsängen Research Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden 2: Lantmännen, Feed Division, Stockholm, Sweden

Publication date: 2003-09-01

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