Lardinois Family Farms, Pulaski, Wis., have been feeding grass as 12.5% of their ration dry matter, or about 23% of their forage dry matter, since September 2007.
Production and reproduction have both improved, and cows have had less acidosis and fewer cases of lameness. Plus, it has allowed the Lardinoises to better use their farm's liquid manure, reduce use of insecticides for leaf hoppers on fewer alfalfa acres, and not have to replace winter-killed acres of alfalfa.
Randy Lardinois presented these findings at a Virtual Farm Tour Friday at World Dairy Expo. The tour was sponsored by Barenbrug USA, Tangent, Oregon.
The Lardinois have seeded the grass as both a grass/alfalfa mix and as clear stands. When mixing with alfalfa, they seed 5 lb. of grass with 15 lb. of alfalfa. When planting pure stands of grass, they drill in 18 lb.
The 2007-seeded straight grass stands yielded 5.8 tons/a of dry matter on three cutting so far this year. Spring-planted grass yielded 2.8 tons/a of dry matter this year, following a very dry July and August in northeast Wisconsin.
Feeding the grass brought its own surprises. Because of relatively high neutral detergent fiber levels in the grass, the relative feed value of the crop often tests below 130. But that's only half the story, says the Lardinois' nutritionist, Bill Matzke. The NDF digestibility of the grass, based on 30-hour in vitro testing, averaged 65%, with a range of 52% to 80%.
Matzke also tested Lardinois' alfalfa and alfalfa from five farms within a 10-mile radius. That alfalfa NDFd averaged 41%, with a range of 29% to 52%. "Grasses were higher in NDF, but also higher in digestibility,” he says.
Cows responded with more milk, with the 480 cows now averaging 25,806 lb. of milk on 3X milking with no BST. "As with most farms, it's hard to pinpoint exactly one change that affected overall production,” says Matzke. "However, since we incorporated the grass haylage, we have seen a steady improvement in production.
"We really didn't change the diet very much when we incorporated the grass haylage,” he adds.
For more information on grass production and performance, go to: http://www.barenbrug.com/?siteid=1001.