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Comparison of the performance of dairy cows offered kale, swedes and perennial ryegrass herbage in situ and perennial ryegrass silage fed indoors in late pregnancy during winter in Ireland

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The effects on the performance of dairy cows offered kale, swedes, and perennial ryegrass in situ and perennial ryegrass silage fed indoors to dairy cows pre-partum during winter in Ireland was examined. Eighty-eight spring-calving dairy cows were randomly assigned to one of four offered treatments; (i) 8 kg of dry matter (DM) of kale leaf and stem + 4 kg DM of perennial ryegrass silage (treatment K), (ii) 8 kg DM of the root and leaf of swedes + 4 kg DM of perennial ryegrass silage (treatment S), (iii) 12 kg DM of perennial ryegrass herbage (treatment G) offered in situ and (iv) perennial ryegrass silage offered ad libitum indoors (treatment ID). Cows on treatments K, S and ID had a greater (P <0·001) increase in body condition score (0·20, 0·14 and 0·50 units respectively) pre-partum than cows on treatment G which lost 0·22 units. Pre-partum treatment had no effect on variables of milk production in the following lactation. In the first 100 d of lactation, cows on treatment G pre-partum had a lower milk fat concentration (35·6 g kg−1) compared with cows on treatments S and ID (38·3 and 39·3 g kg−1 respectively). There was no effect of treatment on the intervals between parturition and first insemination (mean 74·6 d) and conception (mean 96·1 d). The results suggest that offering kale and swedes to dairy cows pre-partum resulted in a similar lactation performance to dairy cows grazing a perennial ryegrass sward or offered perennial ryegrass silage indoors.
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Keywords: body condition score; brassica; dairy cow; milk production; nutrition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Moorepark Dairy Production Research Centre, Teagasc, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland 2: School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Dublin 4, Ireland

Publication date: 01 March 2009

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