Comparison of High-performance Dairy Cows fed Concentrates vs. those fed no Concentrates over a Period of 10 Years

Monday, July 21, 2014
Exhibit Hall AB (Kansas City Convention Center)
Peter L Kunz , Bern University of Applied Sciences, Zollikofen, Switzerland
Monica Buergisser , Bern University of Applied Sciences, Zollikofen, Switzerland
Marisa Furger , Agricultural Education and Advisory Centre Plantahof, Landquart, Switzerland
Abstract Text:

Comparison of high-performance dairy cows fed concentrates vs. those fed no concentrates over a period of 10 years

Kunz, P.L1., Buergisser, M. 1 and Furger, M. 2

1School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, Bern University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland
2Agricultural Education and Advisory Centre Plantahof, Landquart, Switzerland

Milk prices in Switzerland have been falling for years. As a result, farmers seek to reduce production costs by feeding lower amounts of the most expensive feed component, i.e. concentrates, or cease feeding concentrates altogether. In order to clarify how high-performance dairy cows respond to a lack of concentrates in their rations, the high-performance herd (75 Brown Swiss cows) at the experimental farm of the Plantahof Agricultural Centre was divided into two groups: one herd (forage herd =FH, 37 cows) has not received concentrates since 2003, while the other herd (concentrate herd =CH, 38 cows) received the same roughage feed components as the FH and an additional 1500 kg concentrates per cow and lactation. The ration was composed of hay, dried grass and maize silage in winter, and hay, grass and maize silage in summer. Both herds were of equal genetic value, as the same bulls were used to sire progeny. Cows which left the herds were replaced by daughters originate from the same herd. Because not all results have been analysed up to now, the results shown are based on different times. The two feeding regimes resulted in differences between the two trial herds: Over the past six years, feed intake in CH cows was higher (25.6±3.3 kg DM/day) than in FH cows (21.5±2.3 kg DM/day). Similarly, over the past nine years milk yields of CH cows (10,323±731 kg/lactation) exceeded that of FH cows (8279±341 kg/lactation). There was no difference in milk fat and milk protein content. The CH cows suffered higher incidences of milk fever, acetonemia and ovarian cysts over a 4-year period than the FH cows. None of these results were statistically significant. A total of 48 of the CH cows and only 27 of the FH cows had to be sent to slaughter due to infertility or illness over a four-year period. The economic analysis shows that in the Swiss cost environment the forage herd (FH) yielded a higher agricultural income than the concentrate herd (CH). This was primarily due to the higher feed costs for and inferior health of the CH.

Keywords: Dairy Cows, Concentrates, costs of production