Feeding Grass to High Producing Dairy Cows: Could Including a Little Grass Be a Good Thing?

2012

  • David Combs
  • UW-Madison
Project Media

Alfalfa and corn silage are the primary forages grown and fed to dairy cattle in the Midwest, however, there is renewed interest in incorporating perennial and annual grasses into forage cropping systems. High quality grass silages could be a good fit with diets formulated with high quality corn silage and alfalfa. Intensively-managed grass silages are high yielding forages that contain moderate concentrations of fiber (NDF) and low concentrations of non fiber carbohydrate (NFC).

Diets formulated with excellent quality corn silage are often marginal in fiber, and high in NFC content. To balance these diets, it becomes necessary to incorporate feeds that are highly digestible yet contain relatively low amounts of NFC and high amounts of digestible fiber. While alfalfa can provide for some of the deficiencies of corn silage, today’s high quality alfalfas often do not contain much more fiber than corn silage and the lower NFC levels in alfalfa are offset by the high amount of ruminally fermented protein contained in these forages. The nutrient profile of high quality grass silage complement the excesses and deficiencies of rations formulated with excellent quality corn silage and alfalfa.