Conference PaperPDF Available

Forage production and use in the dairy farming systems of Northern Italy

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

In the Po river valley, which represents the largest plain area of Northern Italy, the two main dairy farming systems are associated with cheese production: one for Grana Padano (GP) cheese using silage as the main forage source, and the other for Parmigiano-Reggiano (PR) cheese using hay, where silage fodders are banned to prevent Clostridium contamination and potential swelling defects in the cheese with the lengthy seasoning times. Maize silage is the mainstay forage base for fresh milk and GP cheese forage systems. Farm forage self-sufficiency is not always possible, mainly due to dry seasons and/or the practice of maize monoculture. In addition to the difficulties arising from low quantity production, problems of fodder safety (e.g. mycotoxins contamination of maize grain) and nutritional value occur. Regulations in force for PR production set the minimum level of dry matter intake from hay at 50% of dairy cows’ rations. Difficulties arise in optimizing nutritional values and dry-matter intake when poor quality forages are available. Research is ongoing to evaluate the optimal alfalfa-grass mix, investigating how to maximize forage nutritional value and digestibility. Moreover, both dairy farming systems are highly dependent on imported feedstuffs: soybean from overseas, maize and other starch grains. Ongoing research activities are seeking to establish whether maize or soybean can be partially replaced by other crops (e.g. sorghum, triticale, grains with high protein content, alfalfa and grain legumes).
Content may be subject to copyright.
Grassland and forages in high
output dairy farming systems
Edited by
A. van den Pol-van Dasselaar
H.F.M. Aarts
A. De Vliegher
A. Elgersma
D. Reheul
J.A. Reijneveld
J. Verloop
A. Hopkins
Volume 20
Grassland Science in Europe
Grassland and forages in high
output dairy farming systems
Proceedings
of the 18th Symposium of the
European Grassland Federation
Wageningen, the Netherlands
15-17 June 2015
Edited by
A. van den Pol-van Dasselaar
H.F.M. Aarts
A. De Vliegher
A. Elgersma
D. Reheul
J.A. Reijneveld
J. Verloop
A. Hopkins
Wageningen, 2015
Published by
Organising Committee of the 18th Symposium of the European Grassland Federation 2015 and the
Nederlandse Vereniging voor Weide- en Voederbouw (NWVW), www.nvwv.nl.
Copyright © 2015 NVWV
All rights reserved. Nothing from this publication may be reproduced, stored in computerised systems or
published in any form or any manner, including electronic, mechanical, reprographic or photographic,
without prior written permission from the publisher.
e individual contributions in this publication and any liabilities arising from them remain the
responsibility of the authors.
ISBN 9789090289618
Paper submission and evaluation powered by
Editing and production by
Wageningen Academic Publishers
P.O. Box 220
6700 AE Wageningen
e Netherlands
www.WageningenAcademic.com
Distributed by
European Grassland Federation EGF
W. Kessler, Federation Secretary
c/o Agroscope
Reckenholzstrasse 191
CH-8046 Zürich, Switzerland
E-mail: fedsecretary@europeangrassland.org
WageningenAcademic
Publishers
Nederlandse Vereniging voor Weide- en Voederbouw Netherlands Society for Grassland and Fodder Crops
OASES
Online Academic Submission and Evaluation System
Grassland Science in Europe, Vol. 20 – Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems V
Organising Committee
M.W.J. (Marcia) Stienezen (Chair)
Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands
A. (Oane) de Hoop
OANEvents, Lelystad, the Netherlands
A.H. (Rita) Hoving-Bolink
Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands
A. (Anke) de Lorm-Boer
Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands
J.E. (Jeroen) Nolles
CAH Vilentum University of Applied Sciences, Dronten, the Netherlands
Scientic Committee
A. (Agnes) van den Pol-van Dasselaar (Chair)
Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands
CAH Vilentum University of Applied Sciences, Dronten, the Netherlands
H.F.M. (Frans) Aarts
Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands
A. (Alex) De Vliegher
ILVO, Merelbeke, Belgium
A. (Anjo) Elgersma
Independent Scientist, Wageningen, the Netherlands
D. (Dirk) Reheul
Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
J.A. (Arjan) Reijneveld
Blgg AgroXpertus, Wageningen, the Netherlands
J. (Koos) Verloop
Wageningen UR, Wageningen, the Netherlands
Grassland Science in Europe, Vol. 20 – Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems 67
Forage production and use in the dairy farming systems of
Northern Italy
Mantovi P., Dal Prà A., Pacchioli M.T. and Ligabue M.
Centro Ricerche Produzioni Animali (Research Centre on Animal Production) – CRPA, 42121, Viale
Timavo 43/2, Reggio Emilia, Italy
Abstract
In the Po river valley, which represents the largest plain area of Northern Italy, the two main dairy farming
systems are associated with cheese production: one for Grana Padano (GP) cheese using silage as the
main forage source, and the other for Parmigiano-Reggiano (PR) cheese using hay, where silage fodders
are banned to prevent Clostridium contamination and potential swelling defects in the cheese with the
lengthy seasoning times. Maize silage is the mainstay forage base for fresh milk and GP cheese forage
systems. Farm forage self-suciency is not always possible, mainly due to dry seasons and/or the practice
of maize monoculture. In addition to the diculties arising from low quantity production, problems of
fodder safety (e.g. mycotoxins contamination of maize grain) and nutritional value occur. Regulations
in force for PR production set the minimum level of dry matter intake from hay at 50% of dairy cows’
rations. Diculties arise in optimizing nutritional values and dry-matter intake when poor quality forages
are available. Research is ongoing to evaluate the optimal alfalfa-grass mix, investigating how to maximize
forage nutritional value and digestibility. Moreover, both dairy farming systems are highly dependent on
imported feedstus: soybean from overseas, maize and other starch grains. Ongoing research activities
are seeking to establish whether maize or soybean can be partially replaced by other crops (e.g. sorghum,
triticale, grains with high protein content, alfalfa and grain legumes).
Keywords: alfalfa, cereals, dair y, forage, maize, permanent meadows
Introduction
Italy has conrmed its position as the country with the highest number of PDO (protected designation
of origin) and PGI (protected g eographical indication) certications granted by the European Union. As
at 31 December 2014, Italy had 268 PDO and PGI products, cheese being particularly important with
47 certications (MiPAAF, 2014).
Grana Padano (GP) and Parmigiano-Reggiano (PR) are the two main Italian PDO cheeses, using more
than 40% of the milk produced in Northern Italy and most of the milk from the areas of origin: 32
provinces in Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Piedmont and Trentino Alto-Adige in the case of
GP, and the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, part of Bologna in Emilia Romagna and part
of Mantua in Lombardy for PR.
GP and PR are undoubtedly based on high output dairy farming systems: farms have average productivity
of 30.7 kg milk cow-1 day-1 in GP and 23.7 kg milk cow-1 day-1 in PR (AIA, 2013).
Even though changes in agricultural systems over the twentieth century have led to high levels of milk
production based on increasing inputs and specialization of farms and agricultural districts, both systems
are still eectively integrated crop-livestock systems: mixed farming and territorial systems based on the
simultaneous utilization of crops and animals, where the recycling of livestock manure as a fertilizer, even
within the limits imposed by the Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC), is the basic means of fertilizing crops.
Forage crops represent a substantial share of farmland but a high input of feed concentrates (around 10
kg cow-1 day-1) is typical.
68 Grassland Science in Europe, Vol. 20 – Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems
e possibility of using silage to feed animals and the favourable climatic conditions have tied the GP
production area, which is mainly north of the Po river, to maize silage. e PR production area, south of
the Po river, is mainly characterised by alfalfa and grass utilised to produce hay. In fact, in the PR system,
silage fodders are banned in order to prevent Clostridium contamination and potential swelling defects
in the preservative-free cheese subjected to lengthy seasoning.
e objective of this work is to describe the forage systems associated with the GP and PR production,
their special characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. is paper used data from representative dairy
farms belonging to the two production areas, monitored by CRPA (the Research Centre on Animal
Production) in the LIFE+ projects Climate ChangE-R (Reduction of greenhouse gases from agricultural
systems of Emilia-Romagna, LIFE12 ENV/IT/000404) and AQUA (Achieving good water quality
status in intensive animal production areas, LIFE09 ENV/IT/000208): 10 case studies from the GP
system and 10 from the PR system.
CRPA’s databases have been used for the description of forage crop characteristics, as well as the results
of a number of agronomic experimental trials conducted to test the production responses and nutritional
values of some crops whose whole above-ground biomass and/or grains can be used as livestock feed
(trials nanced by the Emilia-Romagna Region, Regional Law 28/98).
Climatic conditions and cropping systems
e Po valley has a continental climate with relatively hot and humid summers and relatively cold winters.
Rainfall ranges from 500-600 mm year-1 in the eastern area, around the Po river delta, to 800-1000 mm
year-1 in the western area and in the foothills, with much higher values in the Alps and the Apennines.
e highest rainfall is recorded in autumn, but April and May also have quite high average rainfall which
can have a negative eect on the hay harvest. Over recent years the area has experienced more rain and
reduced snowfall.
Two factors that need to be taken into account when determining land production potential are irrigation
availability and altitude. Water availability is greater north of the Po river, thanks to the presence of the
Alps. Conditions are less favourable south of the Po, where the Apennines are not able to guarantee the
same quantity of water resources. is explains why 80% of the agricultural land to the north of the Po
is irrigated whereas in the south riverside a lesser area is irrigated.
e main cropping systems in Northern Italy are cereals and forages, generally with high yields and high
nitrogen uptake. Cropping systems in the plains of Northern Italy are closely linked to livestock type:
dairy cattle, beef cattle or pigs.
Maize (Zea mays L.) is the main crop, and is used for grain or for silage. In pig farms and in the PR cheese
production area, maize is mainly cropped for grain.
Where the soil and other conditions are suitable, dairy farms develop a two-crops-per-year cropping
system: maize for silage (early-medium maturing hybrids) in combination with Italian ryegrass (Lolium
multiorum Lam.) or winter cereals for silage production. Maize is also a key crop for manure utilisation,
particularly before ploughing. Nevertheless, silage maize is increasingly used, in combination with cattle
manure, to feed biogas plants producing methane via anaerobic digestion (Fabbri et al., 2013). In the last
decade the cultivation of sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L. Moench) and triticale (Tritico secale) has increased,
having a ‘plastic’ use in both livestock farms and biogas plants.
Grassland Science in Europe, Vol. 20 – Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems 69
Forage crops take up most of the land on dairy farms. e most commonly used forage crops are alfalfa
(Medicago sativa L.), permanent meadows, autumn-winter grass such as Italian ryegrass, winter wheat
(Triticum aestivum L.), barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), triticale and summer grasses such as maize and
sorghum.
Alfalfa production in Northern Italy represents an important resource for dairy cattle farms because of
the amounts of protein and bre it guarantees. Due to its resistance to drought, thanks to a deep root
system, it is particularly suitable in the south riverside of the Po, where water availability is reduced. e
most common rotation is made up of alfalfa for three to ve years followed by a winter cereal (wheat or
barley) or Italian ryegrass. e subsequent crop could be maize, tomatoes or another winter cereal. is
rotation allows the use of livestock manure to fertilize soils: farmyard manure before ploughing and slurry
before ploughing or as a top dressing.
e Grana Padano forage system
Maize silage is the mainstay forage for the production of either fresh milk or milk for GP cheese. Maize
hybrids used for silage production are mainly late- or very late-maturing types (FAO 600 and 700). Where
maize is cultivated in combination with Italian ryegrass (double annual crops), medium-late (FAO 500-
600) or early (FAO 400-500) maturing maize hybrids are used and har vested for silage production. Maize
production is usually high when water is not a limiting factor; silage production ranges between 21-25
Mg dry matter (DM) ha-1 (Table 1).
Heavy soils are ploughed in autumn, and other soil types in spring or autumn. Livestock manures are
usually spread before soil tillage, to be incorporated into the soil. Mineral fertilizer distribution takes place
just before or in combination with sowing (NPK fertilizer) and as top dressing (N). Dairy farms where
manure is available apply mineral fertilisers (mainly urea) at a rate of about 100 kg N ha-1. Farms relying
strongly on manure fertilisation tend to skip mineral N and P fertilisation before sowing. erefore, the
total or the largest part of mineral N is applied to maize as top dressing.
Italian ryegrass is a forage crop which has traditionally played an important role in the GP forage system:
production is about 5-7 Mg DM ha-1, with N uptake of 75-105 kg ha-1. e double-crop system is able
to produce 23-27 Mg DM ha-1, with total N uptake of 290-340 kg ha-1.
Table 1. Average yield and N uptake for the main types of maize in the Italian northern plain (Source: unpublished data from Pioneer Hi-Bred
Italia, modied by AGROSELVITER University of Turin. Reference years: 2004-2008).
FAO class Number of
measurements
Average 1st quartile Median 3rd quartile
Yield (Mg dry matter ha-1)
Irrigated (FAO 400-500) 82 22.1 20.4 22.1 23.6
(FAO 600-700) 1,478 22.9 20.7 23.0 25.1
Not irrigated (FAO 400-500) 11 18.9 18.1 20.1 20.7
(FAO 600-700) 163 20.0 17.5 20.5 22.6
N uptake (kg ha-1)
Irrigated (FAO 400-500) 65 254 234 254 271
(FAO 600-700) 1,007 266 241 267 292
Not irrigated (FAO 400-500) 11 217 208 230 237
(FAO 600-700) 163 243 212 249 274
70 Grassland Science in Europe, Vol. 20 – Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems
On GP farms, the use of alfalfa is considerable, representing 34.4% of the total UAA (Utilised Agricultural
Area) even though GP feed rations are mostly based on maize silage, which takes up 21.7% of crop area
(Figure 1).
e Parmigiano-Reggiano forage system
On PR farms, alfalfa occupies about half the UAA (47.6%). e second-most common crop, with a
share of 26.4%, is winter wheat (Figure 1), which is mostly sold for grain and has limited use as a forage.
Permanent meadows, which are still found on the less-intensive farms, are generally cultivated without
irrigation in the hills and with surface irrigation in the plains. When irrigated, permanent meadows
provide an average of 13 Mg DM ha-1, well distributed over 5-6 cuts, while 2-3 cuts are common in non-
irrigated meadows with an average production of 5-6 Mg DM ha-1, which is concentrated in the spring.
During the season the oristic composition varies: in spring cuts the forage mainly consists of grasses
and in summer cuts it is mainly legumes. e forage is turned into hay or used in cowsheds as fresh green
forage.
e permanent meadow area is declining to the benet of alfalfa. e presence of meadows and annual
grasses in the PR forage system increases its sustainability from the environmental point of view because
such crops are able to make the best use of the nitrogen provided with manure, thus depleting nitrates in
the soil and in the soil water (Mantovi et al., 2007). In fact, the permanent meadow is usually fertilized
Figure 1. Area of crops in farms producing milk for Grana Padano (A) and Parmigiano-Reggiano (B), average values for representative dairy
farms monitored by CRPA.
Grassland Science in Europe, Vol. 20 – Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems 71
using farmyard manure, applied on the sward in the autumn-winter, and the liquid manure is applied
throughout spring-summer aer mowing.
ese meadows have in many cases a long history (decades or centuries) and represent an important
reservoir of biodiversity, holding a high number of plant species. Moreover, they represent a carbon sink
since the soils accumulate organic matter. ese are among the reasons of the CAP Greening criteria for
preserving permanent meadows.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) is the mainstay crop in the PR cheese area, contributing to sustainable
agriculture as a result of its productivity of feed protein per unit area, which is the highest among forage
and grain legumes (Huyghe, 2003).
On the plain, alfalfa is grown for about 4 years and then the land is ploughed during the summer and
prepared for sowing in the autumn (for example, with common wheat or Italian ryegrass) or in the spring
(e.g. with maize). In hilly areas, alfalfa stands generally last longer (up to even 6 or 7 years) and grasses
tend to prevail over time. is helps to increase the sustainability of the system, limiting soil erosion and
allowing the possibility of spreading manure.
In Northern Italy, 4 or more cuttings of alfalfa (up to 6 or 7 under irrigation) can be harvested annually.
Alfalfa yield varies according to the age of the crop and the availability of water. As a general rule, alfalfa
achieves its highest production levels in the second year of cultivation (Table 2).
Various studies have shown that forage quality is ae cted by the growth stage (Nordkvist and Åman, 1986;
Yu et al., 2003), the cultivar (Grin et al., 1994) and the growing conditions (e.g. rainfall, temperature,
soil characteristics and treatments (Mathison et al., 1996)). To obtain high forage quality, alfalfa should
be cut at the beginning of the owering phase when the ratio between dry matter, protein content and
bres quality are optimal (Tabaglio et al., 2006). Aer this stage the Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF)
becomes quite high (Table 3).
Table 3. Characteristics of an alfalfa stand cut at dierent stages during the third year of cultivation (source: unpublished data from CRPA/
Prosementi, project QualeMedica, year 2012).1
Harvesting date Phenological stage Kalu and Fick
(1981) score
Dry matter yield
(Mg DM ha‑1)
NDF (%) Crude protein (%) Crude protein yield
(kg ha‑1)
4 May Late vegetative stage 2.2 5.8 38.1 19.1 1,108
10 May Late vegetative stage 2.3 6.5 40.5 17.1 1,111
15 May Early bud 2.7 6.4 41.5 16.8 1,075
1 DM = dry matter; NDF = neutral detergent bre.
Table 2. Average yield of alfalfa in the Italian northern plains and hills (source: Ligabue et al., 2005).
1st year 2nd year 3rd year 4th year
Plains (Mg dry matter ha-1)
Irrigated 10-11 16-18 13-14 10-12
Not irrigated 7-9 13-15 11-13 9-11
Hills (Mg dry matter ha-1)
Not irrigated 3-5 8-10 6-8 3-5
72 Grassland Science in Europe, Vol. 20 – Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems
Alfalfa is traditionally managed without the use of herbicides or by limiting their use to the rst year. is
management gives rise to the signicant presence of grass species taking advantage of the moisture present
in the soil, particularly in the rst and second cut. Current trends towards more specialised forage crops
tend to separate the production of alfalfa and grasses. As a consequence, alfalfa stands are treated with
herbicide to ensure pure forage and high yields over time.
Haymaking, particularly in the spring cuttings when climatic conditions are oen adverse (high rainfall),
is the most critical stage of forage production. Losses can reach 30%, 40% or more of the protein produced
in the eld. e production of high-quality hay is dependent on the reduction of these losses and this can
be achieved by low-temperature dehydration of wet harvested forage. e most widespread conservation
technique, even today, is haymaking. Hay is stored in round or square bales of dierent weights.
As with the GP district, in the PR area the cultivation of wheat forage is gaining ground. In this case
the biomass is usually cut for hay at the grain-milk stage and the hay is used to feed the more productive
animals. When weather conditions prevent haymaking at the best vegetative stage for cutting the wheat,
some farmers opt for grain production, oen stored in the farm and used aer crushing.
Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano ration characteristics
Maize silage, with an average administration of 23 kg cow-1 day-1, is the forage basis of cattle feed rations
in the GP system (Table 4). Alfalfa is the second-largest ingredient at 2 kg cow-1 day-1 of the rst cut and
4.8 kg cow-1 day-1 of other cuts. e average dry matter intake for lactating cows is 23 kg DM cow-1 day-1.
Table 4. Ingredients and nutrients in GP and PR typical TMR for dairy cows, average values for representative dairy farms monitored by CRPA.1
Ingredients (kg head‑1 day‑1) GP PR
Alfalfa hay (rst cut) 2 4.5
Alfalfa hay (other cuts) 4.8 6.9
Maize silage 23 -
Lolium sp. silage 1 -
Sorghum silage 0.5 -
Triticale silage 0.5 -
Italian ryegrass hay - 1
Permanent meadows hay - 0.5
Wheat hay - 0.6
Wheat silage 0.5 -
Concentrate 9.5 11
Dry matter intake 23.0 22.5
Nutrients
Crude protein (%DM) 14.0 14.8
Starch (%DM) 21.3 26.4
Sugar (%DM) 4.8 6.1
NDF (%DM) 36.0 31.8
dNDF (24 hours) (%NDF) 46.5 44.8
ADF (%DM) 22.3 22.9
ADL (%DM) 3.6 3.8
Net energy of lactation (Mcal kg-1 DM) 1.63 1.63
Ash (%DM) 7.5 8.5
1 ADF = acid detergent bre; ADL = acid detergent lignin; NDF = neutral detergent bre; DM = dry matter.
Grassland Science in Europe, Vol. 20 – Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems 73
e PR farms rely heavily on alfalfa hay in the rations, including the use of the rst cut (with the presence
of grasses), in amounts of more than 11 kg cow-1 day-1.
e signicant dierence between the diets adopted in the two systems is represented by the presence of
silage in GP, particularly maize silage. e production costs per hectare of maize silage are higher than
for other forage crops; however, the former is able to provide a high yield harvested and made into silage
in a single operation.
Production costs for GP rations have been estimated at 0.144 Euro per litre of milk produced, as compared
with 0.177 Euro for the litre of milk used for PR (Santini and Ottolini, 2012).
TMR (Total Mixed Ration) composition analysed using the NIRS predictive technique identied
signicant dierences in the starch content of the rations (21.3% DM in GP vs 26.4%DM in PR)
mainly due to the dierent use of concentrates. e high quantity of maize silage in the GP rations has
a signicant bearing on the NDF (36.0% DM in GP vs 31.8% DM in PR) and digestibility over 24 h
(46.5% DM in GP vs 44.8% DM in PR). e higher use of hay results in a dierence in ash contents:
greater in the PR rations (7.5% DM in GP vs 8.5% DM in PR).
Table 5 sets out the average characteristics of the maize silage and alfalfa hay. Maize silage achieves good
quality levels with starch content over 32% DM and NDF digestibility at 24 hours around 50% NDF.
e rst alfalfa cut includes grasses. For this reason, crude protein content is higher in other cuts (11.0%
DM rst cut vs 17.3% DM other cuts) as well as NDF digestibility at 24 hours (39.1% NDF rst cut vs
34.9% NDF at other cuts).
e forage quality conrms that it would be desirable to organise haymaking of alfalfa on a more rational
basis, anticipating the cut up to the green owering bud stage. Regarding concentrate feed, with maize as
the main amilaceous component and soybean as the source of protein, both GP and PR forage systems
have a limited self-suciency.
Problems and opportunities
e degree of fodder self-suciency is sometimes a problem for the milk production systems of Northern
Italy, mainly due to dry seasons and the maize monoculture which, in addition to low yields, has also
caused problems of fodder safety and nutritional quality.
Table 5. Qualitative parameters of forages (source: unpublished data from CRPA, three-year-period from 2012 to 2014).
Nutrients1Maize silage
(370 samples)
Alfalfa rst cut
(175 samples)
Alfalfa other cuts
(280 samples)
Crude protein (%DM) 7.8 11.0 17.3
Starch (%DM) 32.1 1.9 1.5
Sugar (%DM) 0.8 7.6 7.0
NDF (%DM) 37.7 54.0 42.1
dNDF (24 hours) (%NDF) 50.2 39.1 34.9
ADF (%DM) 23.8 39.7 35.9
ADL (%DM) 2.7 6.6 7.7
Net energy for lactation (Mcal kg-1 DM) 1.71 1.17 1.28
1 ADF = acid detergent bre; ADL = acid detergent lignin; NDF = neutral detergent bre; DM = dry matter.
74 Grassland Science in Europe, Vol. 20 – Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems
Mycotoxin contamination of maize grain
e contamination with aatoxin of a large part of maize produced in those agricultural areas subjected
to heat stress and drought, especially in the years 2003, 2013 and 2014, has created extremely severe
problems for the feed industry and the milk-cheese production chain. In particular, the most-used
components in livestock feed, maize grain and its derivatives (gluten, gluten bran, etc.), are among the
raw materials at the highest risk of contamination.
It was necessary to obtain non-contaminated maize from both EU and extra-EU markets with a
signicant increase in production costs. e doubts over the quality of farm-produced maize has forced
farmers to make unusual replacements and variations in rations at the expense of ruminal functionality
and milk quality. In this situation, the replacement of maize starch with a source having similar nutritional
characteristics, such as that of sorghum, has provided an alternative without risks in the composition of
cattle rations.
Alfalfa and high crude protein grains
Alfalfa could be useful for a partial replacement of soy protein in dairy cattle diet. It is important to
improve the haymaking by scheduling early cuts, which in addition to increasing crude protein contents
have a better amino acid prole when managed properly (Table 6).
In addition to providing energy, some cereals are valuable for their protein content and their amino acid
proles. Wheat and barley grains contain a high protein level and greater contents of essential amino
acids than maize (Lanzas et al., 2007). NRC (2001), indicate lysine content of 0.27%DM for maize grains
and levels of 0.34 and 0.46% DM for grains of winter wheat and barley respectively. Similar values have
been reported by Sauvant et al. (2002): 0.27% DM for maize, 0.35% DM for winter wheat and 0.42%
DM for barley.
Grains with high protein content were cultivated in experimental trials conducted by CRPA in 2014
within the PR production area, near Modena. Barley (11 cultivars), winter wheat (4 cultivars) and
triticale (3 cultivars) were compared. Yield and quality characteristics for the three cereals are reported
in Table 7. e average protein content for the 18 cultivars was 12.1% DM, with the highest values
recorded for wheat and triticale cultivars (over 13%). e starch content for the same cultivars was also
high, around 75% DM.
Table 6. Amino acid composition (g 100 g-1) (source: tissue, milk and bacterial from Lanzas et al., 2007. Soybean meal from Sauvant et al., 2002
and alfalfa from Masoero et al., 2015, personal communication, unpublished).
Milk protein Ruminal bacteria Soybean meal Alfalfa hay1
Methionine 2.71 2.68 0.83 1.45
Lysine 7.62 8.20 6.08 3.87
Arginine 3.40 6.96 7.96 4.25
Threonine 3.72 5.59 3.03 4.36
Leucine 9.18 7.51 6.13 6.78
Isoleucine 5.79 5.88 4.25 4.07
Valine 5.89 6.16 3.79 5.12
Histidine 2.74 2.69 2.27 2.84
Phenylanine 4.75 5.16 3.88 4.50
Tryptophan 1.51 1.63 1.64 3.11
1 Average values from 60 samples from various cuts.
Grassland Science in Europe, Vol. 20 – Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems 75
It is important to note that the production of grain legumes has never taken o in the Po valley; neither
for soybean nor for grain legumes such as eld pea (Pisum sativum) or eld bean (Vicia faba minor). e
reason is mainly the low and unreliable productivity of grain legumes with respect to the protability of
other crops.
Silage and hay om cereals other than maize
Research is underway to investigate the possible partial replacement of maize silage, using sorghum,
triticale and other winter cereals. Sorghum is becoming an important crop for silage because it adapts
to conditions of limited water availability, allowing the production of fodder in areas where maize
experiences dryness and mycotoxin contamination. Sorghum is a multi-purpose cereal of potential
interest for several food and non-food uses (Piluzza et al., 2013). Dierent types are distinguished with
specic morphological characteristics: grain sorghum, bre sorghum, sweet sorghum and others. Silage
sorghum can reach the dry matter production of maize, with the content of structural carbohydrates
(NDF) around 50% and the starch from few percent (bre cultivars) up to 20-25% DM (in grain
cultivars). Crude protein content is generally lower than in maize and varies between 5 and 6% DM,
whereas ash contents are around 7-9% DM.
In particular for the PR forage system, research is being carried out to investigate the optimal use of alfalfa
combined with good quality grasses. In this context the hay from winter cereals can be a valuable resource.
In experimental trials conducted by CRPA in 2014 within the PR area, 14 wheat forage cultivars were
cut at dierent growth stages. Biomass yields varied from about 30 to 50 Mg ha-1, with an average dry
matter level of 32.7%. Dry matter yields varied from 9 to 15 Mg DM ha-1, with higher values recorded
for late cuts (so dough growth stage). Although wheat is considered to be a forage crop that provides
carbohydrates in the diets of dairy cows, the average level of protein was 11.9% DM at head emergence,
rapidly decreasing to dough development in kernel (Table 8). Managed wisely and when unaected
by unfavourable weather conditions, the resulting forage production has very balanced carbohydrate
components characterised by dierent fermentation speeds.
Table 7. Average yields and characteristics of grains with high protein content (source: unpublished data from CRPA, Specie e varietà project,
reference year 2014).1
Cereals Grain yield
(Mg ha‑1)
DM yield
(Mg DM ha‑1)
Crude protein
(g kg‑1 DM)
Starch
(g kg‑1 DM)
Crude bre
(g kg‑1 DM)
Crude fats
(g kg‑1 DM)
Winter wheat 5.60 4.81 134 752 15.4 13.3
Barley 8.26 7.19 113 400 40.3 19.9
Triticale 7.10 6.16 134 765 13.6 11.9
1 DM = dry matter.
Table 8. Average yields and characteristics of wheat forage (source: unpublished data from CRPA, Specie e varietà project, reference year 2014).
1
Growth stage DM yield
(Mg DM ha‑1)
Protein
(g kg‑1 DM)
Starch
(g kg‑1 DM)
NDF
(g kg‑1 DM)
ADF
(g kg‑1 DM)
Head emergence 8.6 119 20.4 557 370
Milk development in kernel 12.8 88 26.3 532 377
Dough development in kernel 15.1 58 42.4 526 410
1 ADF = acid detergent bre; NDF = neutral detergent bre; DM = dry matter.
76 Grassland Science in Europe, Vol. 20 – Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems
Conclusions
Grana Padano and Parmigiano-Reggiano are the two main Italian PDO cheeses using more than 40% of
the milk produced in Northern Italy and almost all the milk from the areas of origin. ey are based on
high-output dairy farming systems with high average productivity (30.7 kg milk cow-1 day-1 in GP and
23.7 kg milk cow-1 day-1 in PR; AIA, 2013).
In the GP system, based on maize silage which guarantees high production of forage with high
energy value, problems such as forage self-suciency and safety are currently addressed by varying the
monoculture through the use of other cereals (sorghum, triticale and other winter cereals). While they
cannot guarantee the same high-energy value as maize, these cereals can have a role in the production of
silage and protein-enriched grains.
In the PR system, where hay is the base of TMR because the regulations set at 50% the minimum level
of dry matter to be obtained from hay (in the rations of dairy cows), the main problem is optimising
the alfalfa-grass mix. For this reason, in recent years there has been a progressive specialisation of forage
crops: alfalfa is increasingly cultivated in pure stands to obtain high quality protein forage while grasses,
which provide the necessary bre in the ration, come from permanent meadows or pure stands of Italian
ryegrass or winter wheat.
In both systems, the production of grain legumes is not signicant because of poor and unreliable
productivity, meaning they are still highly dependent on soybean imports. Research activities are ongoing
to improve the quality characteristics of crops, reducing as much as possible the energy use for soil tillage
while adapting the systems to climate change.
References
AIA (2014) Associazione Italiana Allevatori. Available at: www.aia.it.
Fabbri C., Labartino N., Manfredini S. and Piccinini S. (2013) Biogas, il settore è strutturato e continua a crescere. L’informatore
agrario 11, 11-18.
Grin T.S., Cassida K.A., Hesterman O.B. and Rust S.R. (1994) Alfalfa maturity and cultivar eects on chemical and in situ
estimates of protein degradability. Crop Science 34, 1654-1661.
Huyghe C. (2003) Les fourrages et la production de protéines. Fourrages 174, 145-162.
Kalu B.A. and Fick G.W. (1981) Quantif ying morphological de velopment on alfalfa for studies of herbage quality. Crop Science 21,
267-271.
Lanzas C., Snien C.J., Seo S., Tedeschi L.O. and Fox D.G. (2007) A revised CNCPS feed carbohydrate fractionation scheme for
formulating rations for ruminants. Animal Feed Science and Technolog y 136, 167-190.
Ligabue M., Tabaglio V. and Betti S. (2005) La piante foraggere. Edizioni L’Informatore Agrario, Verona, Italy.
Mantovi P., Ligabue M. and Tabaglio V. (2007) Nitrate content of soil water under forage crops fertilised with dairy slurry in nitrate
vulnerable zone. In: De Vliegher, A. and Carlier L. (eds.) Grassland science in Europe 12, Proceedings of the EGF2007, Ghent,
Belgium, pp. 347-350.
Mathison, R.D., Sheaer C.C., Rabas D.L., Swanson D.R. and Halgerson J.H. (1996) Early spring clipping and herbicide treatments
delay alfalfa maturity. Journal of Production Agriculture 9, 505-509.
MiPAAF (2014) Ministero delle Politiche Agricole e Forestali. Available at: http://www.politicheagricole.it.
NRC (2001) Nutrient Requirements of dairy cattle, 7th rev. National Academy Press, Washington, DC , USA.
Nordkvist E. and Åman P. (1986) Changes during growth in anatomical and chemical composition and in vitro degradability of
lucerne. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 37, 1-7.
Piluzza G., Sulas S. and Bullitta S. (2013). Tannins in forage plants and their role in animal husbandry and environmental
sustainability: a review. Grass and Forage Science 69, 32-48.
Santini S. and Ottolini M. (2012) Alimentazione tutti i limiti dei due grana DOP. Informatore Zootecnico 3, 53-56.
Grassland Science in Europe, Vol. 20 – Grassland and forages in high output dairy farming systems 77
Sauvant D., Perez J.-M. and Tran G. (2002) Tables de composition et de valeur nutritive des matières premières destinées aux animaux
d’élevage. INRA editions, Paris, France, 301 pp.
Tabaglio V., Ligabue M. and Davoli M. (2006) Inuenza dello sfalcio sul foraggio di medica. L’Informatore Agrario 20, 39-42.
Yu P., Christensen D.A., McKinnon J.J. and Markert J.D. (2003) Eect of variety and maturity stage on chemical composition,
carbohydrate and protein subfractions, in vitro rumen degradability and energ y values of timothy and alfalfa. Canadian Journal
of Animal Science 83, 279-290.
... SD = 1.15. These findings are consistent with other Italian TMR samples (Mantovi et al., 2015;Tabacco et al., 2018;Zucali et al., 2018), including diverse forages in addition to alfalfa and longer chop fibre length, but differed from the results of Grant et al. (2020) (aNDF, uNDF.240 and peNDF of 34.6, 10.2 and 20.6 % of DM, respectively), who used Phleum pratense at different ratios (from 10.5 to 24.2 % of DM of TMR or 46.8 to 60.5 % of DM of forage) and different chop lengths. The peNDF calculated by Grant et al. (2020) accounted for pef obtained by sieving dry samples in vertical-shaker, and could be therefore lower compared with that obtained by the PSPS 2002 (Yang and Beauchemin, 2006). ...
Article
Physically effective NDF (peNDF) and undegraded aNDF at 240 h (uNDF.240) are important parameters for characterizing NDF in fibre evaluation and are associated with dietary physical form and fibre digestibility characteristics. A new concept that combines peNDF and uNDF.240, physically effective uNDF.240 (peuNDF.240 = pef × uNDF.240), was recently established. The peuNDF.240 value allows determination of dry matter intake (DMI), and the productive response of cows even in the absence of variation in DMI or when cows are fed rations with low uNDF.240 and high peNDF or rations with high uNDF.240 and more finely chopped fibre. The aim of this study was to improve our understanding of the relationships between dietary uNDF.240 content to other fibre fractions, average cow DMI, gross feed efficiency, and milk yield at the farm level. Furthermore, the relation between peuNDF.240 and the productive response of cows was also investigated at the farm level. In the Po’ Valley, which is a representative area for dairy production in Italy, a cohort of 22 Holstein dairy farms was monitored over two years (2019–2020). Information regarding average cow DMI, milk yield, and ration composition was obtained through interviews with farmers, and feed samples were collected and chemically analysed. Farms were classified according to their dietary uNDF.240 (% of DM) content: low (uL) ≤ 8.29 or high (uH) > 8.29. Farms with low dietary uNDF.240 used less alfalfa forage as a fibre source compared with farms with high dietary uNDF.240 (6.27 vs. 15.5 % of DM) and showed higher average milk yield (35.9 vs. 33.6 kg/cow/day, respectively) and similar DMI (23.9 vs. 24.3 kg/cow/day, respectively). Dietary peuNDF.240 was negatively related to milk yield (milk yield = 47.4 – 1.87 peuNDF.240, R² = 0.62, adjusted R² = 0.60, residual standard error (RSE) = 1.87, P = 0.001) and gross feed efficiency (gross feed efficiency = 1.96 – 0.08 peuNDF.240, R² = 0.65, adjusted R² = 0.64, RSE = 0.07, P = 0.001). The results of this study have practical significance for farmers, as they suggest that the inclusion of low digestible forages in the ration (i.e., late-harvested alfalfa characterized by high uNDF.240) may require more fine shredding to reduce the overall value of peuNDF.240 and increase cow production.
... Conversely, PAST-MEAD Maint was widely adopted in the Veneto Region (61437 ha) despite commitments using organic fertilizers only at maximum doses of 170 kg N ha − 1 yr − 1 . The long history of pastures and meadows not only in hilly and mountainous areas where arable crops are barely cultivated, but also in the plain where more intensive cultivation takes place have helped to maintain existing cattle and dairy farms (Mantovi et al., 2015). ...
Article
Agri-environmental measures (AEMs) are meant to foster environmentally-friendly farming techniques. The use of AEMs to enhance agroecosystem quality is still under debate due to site-specific spatial mismatches that often occur between adopted AEMs and delivered ecosystem services. Here, a site-specific approach was employed to assess the advantages and disadvantages of AEMs adopted from the Rural Development Programme and applied in the Veneto Region (NE Italy) during 2014–2020. Specifically, a DayCent model-GIS platform compared business-as-usual (BAU) and AEM scenarios. The effect of AEMs on ecosystem services was assessed by integrating high-resolution spatial data from multiple pedo-climates and land managements and combined agronomic and environmental outcomes. Results showed that AEM adoption generally improved ecosystem service delivery, especially by reducing water pollution and increasing soil fertility. Among simulated practices, permanent soil cover and minimum soil disturbance (i.e., conservation agriculture, pasture and meadow maintenance) produced the best results across the Veneto Region, despite compromises in agronomic performance due to AEM-specific commitments (e.g., narrow crop rotation in conservation agriculture, fertilizer use restrictions in pastures and meadows). Other AEMs (e.g., organic farming) appeared highly dependent on their spatial distribution and were influenced by a strong interaction between pedo-climatic characteristics (e.g., soil properties) and management techniques (e.g., type and quantity of nutrients input). The spatial-target approach is highly recommended to identify AEMs that achieve environmental quality objectives and develop indications as to where they should be encouraged to maximize ecosystem services delivery.
... Water availability and the destination of milk for protected designation of origin (PDO) cheeses are the main drivers of the organization of forage systems in the Po Plain (Mantovi et al., 2015). The availability of water and the high soil fertility in the north of the Po River have historically favored the cultivation of corn (whole-plant silage and dry grain), which is recognized to produce a high DM yield per hectare and to be more suitable for an easy conservation by ensiling (Borreani et al., 2013;Gislon et al., 2020b) than permanent meadows and legume forage crops. ...
Article
Full-text available
Eight lactating Italian Friesian cows were housed in individual respiration chambers in a repeated Latin square design to determine their dry matter intake (DMI) and their milk and methane production, as well as to collect the total feces and urine to determine the N and energy balances. Four diets, based on the following forages (% of dry matter, DM), were tested: corn silage (CS, 49.3), alfalfa silage (AS, 26.8), wheat silage (WS, 20.0), and a typical hay-based Parmigiano Reggiano cheese production diet (PR, 25.3 of both alfalfa and Italian ryegrass hay). The greatest DMI was observed for cows fed PR (23.4 vs. 20.7 kg/d, the average of the other 3 diets). The DM digestibility was lower for PR (64.5 vs. 71.7%, the average of the other diets). The highest ash-free neutral detergent fiber digestibility values were obtained for CS (50.7%) and AS (47.4%). In the present study, no differences in milk production were observed between diets, although PR showed a higher milk yield trend. The highest milk urea N concentration (mg/dL) was found for the cows fed the WS diet (13.8), and the lowest was observed for the cows fed AS (9.24). The highest milk urea N concentration for the cows fed WS was also correlated with the highest urinary N excretion (g/d), which was found for the cows fed that same diet (189 vs. 147 on average for the other diets). The protein digestibility was higher for the cows fed the CS and WS diets (on average 68.5%) than for the cows fed AS and PR (on average 57.0%); dietary soybean inclusion was higher for CS and WS than for AS and PR. The rumen fermentation pattern was affected by the diet; the cows fed the PR diet showed a higher rumen pH and decreased propionate production than those fed CS, due to the lower nonfiber carbohydrate content and higher ash-free neutral detergent fiber content of the PR diet than the CS diet. Feeding cows with PR diet increased the acetate:propionate ratio in comparison with the CS diet (3.30 vs. 2.44 for PR and CS, respectively). Cows fed the PR diet produced a greater daily amount of methane and had a greater methane energy loss (% of digestible energy intake) than those fed the CS diet (413 vs. 378 g/d and 8.67 vs. 7.70%), but no differences were observed when methane was expressed as grams per kilogram of DMI or grams per kilogram of milk. The PR diet resulted in a smaller net energy for lactation content than the CS diet (1.36 vs. 1.70 Mcal/kg of DM for the PR and CS diets, respectively). Overall, our research suggests that a satisfactory milk production can be attained by including different high-quality forages in balanced diets without any negative effect on milk production or on the methane emissions per kilogram of milk.
... The average number of dairy cows per farm is 106, with a stocking rate of 2.62 cows per hectare (Pieri, 2016). Cows' diet is often based on silage maize, apart from areas where silage maize is banned to produce Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (Mantovi et al., 2015). Maize is in fact the most productive forage crop in this area, highly fertilized and irrigated. ...
Article
Best management practices that could improve sustainability of dairy farming systems in northern Italy include crop rotation, green manure, sprinkler or drip irrigation, incorporation of crop residue, and adoption of a nutrient management plan. Despite the numerous advantages that scientific literature reports for these Best management practices, they are not always adopted by farmers, because other factors – of financial, technical, or social nature – limit their adoption. The theory of planned behaviour, based on the identification of outcomes, referents surrounding the farmers, and control factors, was applied through a detailed questionnaire to study individual farmer beliefs that influence the intention to adopt best practices. More than 50% out of the farms applied incorporation of crop residue, rotation with a grass or a legume meadow, sprinkler or drip irrigation, and adopted a nutrient management plan. Reasons for applying them were mainly related to soil sustainability (improvement of soil organic matter content, soil structure, fertility and yield) or to environmental sustainability (reduction of nitrogen losses, use of fertilizers, herbicides or insecticides). Among the main barriers to their adoption, the most important ones were an increase in direct or indirect costs. The only practice that was not adopted and, despite a limited number of barriers, will not be adopted by farmers, is green manure. Likely, our survey did not capture the real barriers against the adoption of this practice. Across all best management practices, the main difference between adopters and non-adopters was found in referents’ opinion on applying them. This means that it is very important, for the adoption of best management practices, that the community of family members, neighbor farmers, and various advisors, are in favour of adoption. This important finding should be used by public authorities to promote the development of focus groups, demonstration days, demonstration farms, and especially good and updated independent farm advisors who could substantially increase the adoption of best management practices by farmers.
Article
Full-text available
This article presents the results of a study conducted in 2021 in the experimental field of the Federal Scientific Vegetable Center in the Moscow Region. The effect of fertilizer application on various significant traits of the early soybean cultivar Lira was studied. For our study, we used a complex water-soluble fertilizer Universal brand 18:18:18+ 3 MgO + ME (LC “Voskresensk Mineral Fertilizers”), containing an equal amount (18%) of water-soluble forms of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, an easily accessible form of magnesium and the six most important trace elements (boron, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc). The effect of fertilizer was studied according to the following scheme: Control (K, 0 g/m2 of fertilizer), Variant 1. - 0.5 g/m2 of fertilizer (B1), Variant 2. - 1 g/m2 of fertilizer (B2) and Variant 3. - 1.5 g/m2 of fertilizer (B3). It was found that the application of fertilizer had a significant effect (Ff < F05) on the traits we studied (plant height, lower pod attachment height, weight of 1000 seeds, number of pods and seeds per 1 soybean plant). Regarding plant height and lower pod attachment height, a negative effect of fertilizer application was revealed, as we observed a decrease in plant height by 4.7%, 16.2% and 18.3% for variants 1, 2 and 3, respectively; and a decrease of lower pod attachment height of 21.9%, 18.4%, and 17.0% for these variants. The application of fertilizers contributed to an increase in the number of pods by 5–26 pcs/plant, the number of seeds per plant by 7–51 pcs/plant. compared to control. The application of fertilizers also increased the weight of 1000 seeds by 10.15–32.12 g. Among the studied variants, the second variant - B1 (0.5 g/m2) had the most effect on the studied traits.
Article
Full-text available
A field experiment was carried out in the field of Field Crops Department, College of Agricultural Engineering Sciences, University of Baghdad, Al-Jadriya, 2017-2018, to study the effect of spraying stages and concentrations of kinetin and licorice root extract on wheat growth. A factorial xperiment in Randomized Complete Block Design (RCBD) with three replicates was followed. The first factor represented by the stages of spraying including the stage of tillering, booting and anthesis (S1, S2 and S3 respectively). The second factor included five treatments involved C0: comparison treatment (water spray only), C1: 150 mg/L of kinetin, C2: 150 mg/L of the licorice root extract, C3: 150 mg/L of kinetin + 150 mg/L of the licorice root extract and C4: 75 mg/L of kinetin + 75 mg/L of the licorice root. The results showed that the spraying at tillering stage was superior by giving the highest means for most studied traits including height of the plant, the chlorophyll index (SPAD value), the area of flag leaf and the number of tillers, which reached 97.39 cm, 52.66 SPAD units, 57.85 cm2 and 482.68 tillers per m2, respectively. The spray treatment C3 was superior by giving the highest average height of the plant, the chlorophyll index (SPAD), the flag leaf area cm2, and the number of tillers with recorded means of 100.98 cm, 53.83 SPAD units, 63.47 cm2 and 549.36 tillers per m2, respectively. As for the interaction treatment, C3 was superior at tillering stage by giving the highest average plant height (101.87 cm), chlorophyll index (55.92 SPAD units), the flag leaf area (67.67 cm2) and the number of tillers (590.70 tillers per m2)
Article
Full-text available
Forages dry matter (DM) could vary among batches and in particular when silages are fed. These variations could modify nutrients composition of total mixed ration and affect cows performance. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of application of a precision feeding system (PFS) based on a near infra-red scanner, on metabolic conditions and milk yield in lactating dairy cows. The study was performed in 7 farms where PFS was installed on feed mixer to perform a weight-adjustment of DM measured in real time on feeds. A cross-over (14 weeks periods) was applied, PFS was switched on (PF-ON) in three herds and off in the other four (PF-OFF) during 1st period, and vice versa in 2nd period. At the end of two periods, in each herd 7 early and 7 mid lactation cows, for a total of 196 cows, were checked for: blood parameters, milk yield and composition. During the study deviation of DM of target diet (calculated on amount of feed in recipe and applying the DM determined in laboratory) and diets really distributed to cows tended to be lower with PF-ON vs. PF-OFF (0.06 vs 0.12 kg, p = .12). In early lactating cows, lower blood urea (4.63 vs 4.88 mmol/L, p = .115) indicated a better feed protein utilisation in PF-ON vs. PF-OFF. Milk yield and composition were not affected. The use of PFS meliorated the consistency of TMR, which could determine a better efficiency of nutrients utilisation and a reduction of production costs. • Highlights • Near infra-red (NIR) technology can be advantageously applied at farm level within a precision feeding system for dairy cows. • The system allowed a more constant daily supply of nutrients with a reduction of metabolic alterations and a higher efficiency of feed protein utilisation. • Utilization of NIR technology at farm level can be economically sustainable.
Article
Full-text available
The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of forage variety and stage of maturity on chemical composition, protein and carbohydrate subfractions, in vitro rumen degradability and energy content under the climatic conditions of western Canada. Two varieties of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L. cvs. Pioneer and Beaver) and timothy (Phleum pratense L. cvs. Climax and Joliette), grown at three locations in Saskatchewan (Canada), were cut at three stages [1 = 1 wk before commercial cut (early bud for alfalfa; joint for timothy); 2 = at commercial cut (late bud for alfalfa; pre-bloom head for timothy); and 3 = one week after commercial cut (early bloom for alfalfa; full head for timothy)]. The results showed that: (1) the varieties had minimal effects on nutritional value; however, (2) stage of cutting had a large impact on chemical composition, protein and carbohydrate fractions, in vitro rumen degradability and energy value. As plant maturity advanced from stage 1 to 3, the following changes were noticed: (a) CP was decreased [alfalfa: 20.2 to 17.6; timothy: 11.1 to 7.9% dry matter (DM)]; fibre was affected very little in alfalfa but increased in timothy [acid detergent fibre (ADF): 38.0 to 40.7; neutral detergent fibre (NDF): 68.7 to 72.8% DM]; lignin and neutral detergent insoluble protein (NDIP) were not affected in either forage; acid detergent insoluble protein (ADIP) was increased in alfalfa (3.5 to 17.1% CP), but no effect was seen in timothy; (b) the rapidly degradable protein fraction (PA) was reduced in alfalfa (51.2 to 34.8% CP) but increased in timothy (9.2 to 27.5% CP); the rapidly degradable fraction (PB1) increased in alfalfa (0.0 to 25.2% CP), but decreased in timothy (31.6 to 16.7%); the intermediate degradable fraction (PB2) decreased in both forages (alfalfa: 14.1 to 5.2; timothy: 37.8 to 29.4% CP); the slowly degradable fraction (PB3) declined in alfalfa (33.1 to 17.7% CP), but was not affected in timothy (averaging 21.3% CP); the unavailable fraction (PC) associated with the cell wall increased in alfalfa (3.5 to 17.1% CP), but did not change in timothy (averaging 5.2% CP); (c) in vitro rumen degradabilities of DM (IVDMD) and NDF (IVNDFD) increased at stage 2 and then declined at stage 3. The highest IVDMD and IVNDFD after a 48-h incubation were at cutting stage 2 (50.5 and 37.3%; 42.8 and 37.3% for alfalfa and timothy, respectively); (d) the energy content behaved in a quadratic fashion; it increased initially and then decreased with the highest energy contents at stage 2 for both forages (TDN1x, DE1x, DEp, MEp, NELp: 63.8% DM, 2.92, 2.68, 2.26, 1.40 Mcal kg-1 DM for alfalfa; 45.3% DM, 2.03, 1.86, 1.43, 0.82 Mcal kg-1 DM for timothy, respectively). In general, the best cutting was found at stage 2, which was late- bud for alfalfa varieties and pre-bloom head for timothy.
Article
Full-text available
The literature about tannins, polyphenolic secondary metabolites of plants, with both beneficial and adverse function according to their concentration and chemical structure, is vast and often conflicting. Tannins in forages have often been described as antinutritional factors, but this review aims to update information on beneficial effects on animals and the environment. Although research on the relation between tannins and animal production and health, for example, dry-matter intake, digestibility, rumen fermentation and diseases, has mainly focused on condensed tannins, this review also discusses potential benefits from the use of hydrolysable tannins as a feed additive. Attention is given to the use of tannins in the mitigation of methane emissions from ruminants in forage-based feeding systems and as a natural and ecologically friendly resource for improvement of nutrient utilization and environmental sustainability in meat and dairy farming.
Article
Full-text available
Three contiguous plots established on highly permeable soil in the Po valley (Italy), and equipped with tensiometers and ceramic cup samplers, have been cropped respectively with lucerne (Medicago sativa), tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea), and their mixture. Dairy slurry was applied three times during the second year (at the end of the winter and after the 1st and 4th cut), with total amounts of 272 kg N ha-1 for tall fescue and 136 kg N ha-1 (half rate) for the mixture. Lucerne was not fertilised with nitrogen. Total yields for the 5 cuts were 17.8 t DM ha-1 for lucerne (average protein content 18.2 % DM), 10.9 for tall fescue (protein 12.6 % DM) and 19.2 for the mixture (protein 17.0 % DM). Soil water nitrate content was steadily low under each of the three forage crops, with average values ranging from 5 (tall fescue plot) to 10 (lucerne plot) mg NO3-N l -1 , without significant negative impact on groundwater. Activities are currently being carried out to verify the effect of repeated application rates higher than the 170 kg N ha-1 year-1 limit fixed for NVZ in Nitrate Directive 91/676.
Article
The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of forage variety and stage of maturity on chemical composition, protein and carbohydrate subfractions, in vitro rumen degradability and energy content under the climatic conditions of western Canada. Two varieties of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L. cvs. Pioneer and Beaver) and timothy (Phleum pratense L. cvs. Climax and Joliette), grown at three locations in Saskatchewan (Canada), were cut at three stages [I = I wk before commercial cut (early bud for alfalfa; joint for timothy); 2 = at commercial cut (late bud for alfalfa; pre-bloom head for timothy); and 3 = one week after commercial cut (early bloom for alfalfa; full head for timothy)]. The results showed that: (1) the varieties had minimal effects on nutritional value; however, (2) stage of cutting had a large impact on chemical composition, protein and carbohydrate fractions, in vitro rumen degradability and energy value. As plant maturity advanced from stage I to 3, the following changes were noticed: (a) CP was decreased [alfalfa: 20.2 to 17.6; timothy: 11.1 to 7.9% dry matter (DM)]; fibre was affected very little in alfalfa but increased in timothy [acid detergent fibre (ADF): 38.0 to 40.7; neutral detergent fibre (NDF): 68.7 to 72.8% DM]; lignin and neutral detergent insoluble protein (NDIP) were not affected in either forage; acid detergent insoluble protein (ADIP) was increased in alfalfa (3.5 to 17.1% CP), but no effect was seen in timothy; (b) the rapidly degradable protein fraction (PA) was reduced in alfalfa (51.2 to 34.8% CP) but increased in timothy (9.2 to 27.5% CP); the rapidly degradable fraction (PB1) increased in alfalfa (0.0 to 25.2% CP), but decreased in timothy (31.6 to 16.7%); the intermediate degradable fraction (PB2) decreased in both forages (alfalfa: 14.1 to 5.2; timothy: 37.8 to 29.4% CP); the slowly degradable fraction (PB3) declined in alfalfa (33.1 to 17.7% CP), but was not affected in timothy (averaging 21.3% CP); the unavailable fraction (PC) associated with the cell wall increased in alfalfa (3.5 to 17.1% CP), but did not change in timothy (averaging 5.2% CP); (c) in vitro rumen degradabilities of DM (IVDMD) and NDF (IVNDFD) increased at stage 2 and then declined at stage 3. The highest IVDMD and IVNDFD after a 48-h incubation were at cutting stage 2 (50.5 and 37.3%; 42.8 and 37.3% for alfalfa and timothy, respectively); (d) the energy content behaved in a quadratic fashion; it increased initially and then decreased with the highest energy contents at stage 2 for both forages (TDN(1x), DE(1x), DE(p), ME(p), NE(Lp) : 63.8% DM, 2.92, 2.68, 2.26, 1.40 Mcal kg(-1) DM for alfalfa; 45.3% DM, 2.03, 1.86, 1.43, 0.82 Mcal kg(-1)) DM for timothy, respectively). In general, the best cutting was found at stage 2, which was late-bud for alfalfa varieties and pre-bloom head for timothy.
Article
Delays in harvesting first-crop alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) at recommended maturities for optimum forage quality are caused by untimely rainfall and the logistics of harvesting large acreages. Our objective was to determine the effect of spring preharvest clipping and herbicide defoliation treatments on first harvest maturity and leaf:stem ratio (L:S), on first harvest and total season forage yield and forage quality, and on total season returns over costs. A 2-yr field study was conducted at Grand Rapids, MN, on a Cowhorn very fine sand (Aeric Haplaquepts, coarse-loamy, mixed, nonacid). Spring defoliation treatments consisted of clipping to a 3 in. stubble height when alfalfa was 6 or 9 in. tall and application of MCPA amine at low (average of 0.16 lb a.i./acre) and high (average of 0.23 lb a.i./acre) rates when alfalfa was at a 6 in. height. An untreated control was harvested at bud stage (about 10 June) and a set of defoliation treatments along with untreated controls were each harvested 1 and 2 wk after the bud harvest. Spring clipping and herbicide treatments consistently delayed alfalfa maturity and enhanced alfalfa leafiness compared with untreated controls harvested the same day and often resulted in similar maturity as a control treatment harvested 1 or 2 wk earlier. Spring clipping at a 9 in. height or application of a high rate of herbicide delayed maturity compared with clipping at a 6 in. height. All spring clipping and herbicide defoliation treatments reduced first and total season yields compared with controls harvested the same date and resulted in yields equal to or less than a control harvested 1 or 2 wk earlier. Yield reduction was usually less for the 6 in. clipping or the low herbicide rate. Forage crude protein (CP) and fiber concentration of clipping and herbicide treatments was similar to those of an early control harvested 1 wk earlier, but only clipping at a 9 in. height and use of a high herbicide rate maintained forage quality for 2 wk. Total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC) and residual yields taken the following spring were not affected by spring treatments. Spring defoliation often resulted in less net return than the controls due to reductions in yields and added costs of applying treatments, but it may still be a useful practice for producers with large acreages who wish to minimize the risk of rain damage.
Article
Résumé Les cultures fourragères et notamment les prairies temporaires ou permanentes constituent une source majeure de protéines alimentaires pour les ruminants, assurant environ 85 % des besoins de ces animaux. Cette production peut encore être accrue par une augmentation de la sole en légumineuses fourragères, notamment de luzerne, et de la part des associations, ainsi que par la sélection génétique et l'évolution des techniques de récolte. Par contre, la solubilité des protéines foliaires est forte et liée à leur rôle métabolique essentiel. Cette solubilité est variable entre espèces mais peu différente entre variétés, à l'exception du lotier où les variations sont liées aux variations de teneurs en tanins. La déshydratation constitue un procédé technologique permettant une forte réduction de cette solubilité. La recherche d'une plus grande autonomie protéique doit se faire dans un contexte de faibles lessivages en nitrates. Les systèmes laitiers recherchant l'autonomie protéique sont relativement performants, le couplage avec des systèmes céréaliers permettant une amélioration sensible du bilan azoté des exploitations. A l'échelle de la parcelle, les pertes par lessivage augmentent avec le chargement, les associations étant plus performantes que les cultures pures. Par contre, un soin particulier doit être porté sur les pertes possibles lors du retournement des cultures fourragères pérennes. Dans un cadre plus global, les légumineuses fourragères ou les associations constituent des voies idéales pour combiner l'autonomie protéique et une faible consommation en énergie fossile, les engrais azotés pesant fortement dans la balance énergétique des systèmes de production. Les prairies permettent aussi une forte immobilisation du carbone. L'étude de la production de protéines à partir des cultures fourragères et prairiales soulignent la nécessité de resituer toute problématique sur ces cultures dans le cadre général de leur rôle multi-fonctionnel.
Article
The relationships among plant maturity or genotype and forage quality and ruminal in situ degradability of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) are inadequately understood. A 2-yr experiment was conducted to study the effects of cutting (spring or summer), plant maturity (six sampling dates), and cultivar (Vernal, Arrow, WL-320, and Target II or Legend) on chemical composition and in situ degradability of alfalfa. Plant maturity was quantified by the mean stage weight (MSW) system. Herbage cell wall, cell-wall bound N, and in situ escape protein (EP) increased significantly with MSW; crude protein (CP) and in situ dry matter degradability (ISDMD) decreased. Forage nutritive quality declined less with increasing MSW in summer than in spring cuttings. In 1991, the cultivar Target II had lower ISDMD than Vernal, Arrow, or WL-320, while summer growth of Arrow contained less EP than other cultivars [...]