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Italian ryegrass silage in winter feeding of organic dairy cows: forage intake, milk yield and composition

BACKGROUND: Organic milk production aims at efficient use of home-grown feeds, especially forages, to minimise the quantity of purchased feeds. In conventional agriculture, Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.) is known for its high energy content and palatability, and the aim of the present study was to examine its suitability as feed for organic dairy cows. Therefore a feeding trial was conducted comparing a diet including 50% (of silage drymatter (DM)) of Italian ryegrass silage with a control diet based on grass/clover silage (a mixture of the second cut from permanent grassland and the second cut from a perennial clovergrass ley) alone. RESULTS: Inclusion of Italian ryegrass silage in the diet increased forage intake significantly (14.5 vs 13.4 kg DM in the control group) and concentrate intake did not differ, but milk yield was slightly lower (20.3 vs 21.0 kg) owing to the low energy and protein concentration of Italian ryegrass silage. CONCLUSION: Italian ryegrasswas indeed found to be highly palatable, confirming in principle its suitability as feed for organic dairy cows. However, higher energy and protein concentrations in this forage would be necessary to translate the high intakes of Italian ryegrass silage into improved milk production as well.



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