This study investigated the feed intake, milk production, and plasma nutrient status in dairy cows fed intercropped pea-wheat (bi-crop) silages comprised of contrasting ratios of pea to wheat. Spring peas (cv. Magnus) and wheat (cv. Axona) sown at either high (75:25) or low (25:75) pea inclusion rates were harvested after 13 (Cut 1) or 15 (Cut 2) wk. Eighteen Holstein-Friesian cows between wk 9 and 10 of lactation were used in a cyclical changeover design with three 28-d periods. Cows were fed the bi-crop silages and 6 kg of concentrates or second-cut grass silage supplemented with 6 (GS6) or 9 (GS9) kg/d of concentrates. Forage intakes were higher when bi-crops were fed (10.3 to 11.4 kg dry matter [DM]/d) than when grass silage was fed (8.6 kg DM/d). Total DM intake was similar among cows fed the bi-crop silages and GS9 diets, but intakes for GS6 were at least 1.7 kg DM/d lower. Increasing the pea inclusion rate increased the crude protein (CP) content of the ration, but it did not enhance forage quality or animal performance. The rate of intake of the different forages was similar, so that the higher intakes of bi-crop silages were associated with more time spent at the feedbunk and an increased number of meals. Diet digestibility ranged from 531 to 650 g/kg, and the highest value was given by the Cut 1 bi-crop silage diet. Milk yield tended to be similar for cows fed the Cut 2 bi-crop and GS9 diets, and these values were at least 1.7 kg higher than those for cows fed on other treatments. Generally, the bi-crop diets resulted in higher milk fat contents and lower polyunsaturated fatty acid contents. Milk protein content was highest for cows fed the GS9 diet. Blood metabolite content was unaffected by treatment except for blood urea nitrogen content, which was higher in cows fed the bi-crop silages, reflecting reduced N-use efficiency with these diets. The study showed that pea-wheat bi-crop silages can be used to replace moderate-quality grass silage in dairy cow rations, but their role as alternatives to high-quality forages requires additional investigation.
|Journal||Journal of Dairy Science|
|Publication status||Print publication - Nov 2002|