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Animals 2014, 4(3), 463-475; doi:10.3390/ani4030463

Productive and Economic Responses in Grazing Dairy Cows to Grain Supplementation on Family Farms in the South of Brazil

1
Lab of Applied Ethology and Animal Welfare (LETA), Departament of Zootechny and Rural Development, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Rod. Admar Gonzaga, 1346, Florianopolis, SC 88034-000, Brazil
2
Lab of Animal Biochemistry, Department of Zootechny and Rural Development, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Rod. Admar Gonzaga, 1346, Florianópolis, SC 88034-000, Brazil
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 6 April 2014 / Revised: 30 June 2014 / Accepted: 8 July 2014 / Published: 17 July 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainable Animal Production)
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Simple Summary

In the South of Brazil, as in many regions where dairy production is pasture-based, the use of concentrate to supplement cattle diet frequently does not follow technical guidelines. This may result in inefficient management, with increased cost of production and lower pasture intake. In this study, small amounts of an energy supplement proved to be more economically efficient than a high protein commercial concentrate, despite a decrease in milk productivity. The cows were able to compensate for the lower levels of protein in the supplement with selective grazing for high protein plants. The quality of the milk was unaffected by the treatment.

Abstract

Pasture-based dairy production has been a major source of income for most family farms in the south of Brazil. Increasing milk prices have spurred an increase in grain supplementation, which has been poorly implemented, resulting in low levels of efficiency. To evaluate the consequences of supplementation on milk production and composition, grazing behavior and economic return, the widely used grain management system (CC-commercial concentrate, containing 21% CP, offered at 1 kg per 3.7 L of milk) was compared with an energy supplement (GC-ground corn, with 9.5% CP, offered at 0.4% of live weight). Ten Holstein cows were paired into two groups, and subjected to the two treatments in a crossover design. The cows remained in the same grazing group, and the grain supplement was offered individually at milking time and consumed completely. Each experimental period lasted 14 days, with 10 days for diet adaptation and four days for data collection; individual milk production and samples were collected to determine levels of fat, protein, lactose, carotenoids, vitamin A and N-urea. Grazing behavior was observed (scans every 5 min) in the first 4 h after the morning milking, and chemical composition of hand plucked samples of forage were measured. The cost of the supplement and profitability per treatment were calculated. Cows supplemented with GC consumed herbage with higher crude protein (CP: 16.23 vs. 14.62%; p < 0.05), had higher biting rate (44.21 vs. 39.54 bites/min; p < 0.03) and grazing time (22.20 vs. 20.55 scans; p < 0.05) than when receiving CC. There were no differences in milk composition between treatments (p > 0.05). However, higher concentrations of β-carotene and total carotenoids were detected in the milk of cows at 70–164 days of lactation, compared to <70 days of lactation (p < 0.05). Milk production was higher (13.19 vs. 11.59 kg/day; p < 0.05) when cows consumed CC, but resulted in lower profitability compared to GC (US$ 4.39 vs. US$ 4.83/cow per day). Our results show that higher productivity does not necessarily improve profitability. Cows receiving supplement with lower levels of protein were able to adjust their grazing behavior to meet their protein needs and this level of diet modification did not alter milk composition. View Full-Text
Keywords: livestock sustainability; grazing behavior; milk composition; Voisin’s Rational Grazing livestock sustainability; grazing behavior; milk composition; Voisin’s Rational Grazing
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Filho, L.C.P.M.; D’Ávila, L.M.; da Silva Kazama, D.C.; Bento, L.L.; Kuhnen, S. Productive and Economic Responses in Grazing Dairy Cows to Grain Supplementation on Family Farms in the South of Brazil. Animals 2014, 4, 463-475.

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