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Project description and quality of fresh grass

Partial grazing with indoor feeding of fresh grass is an important feeding system for Swiss dairy farms. From 2014 to 2016, three production systems – ’partial grazing with indoor feeding of fresh grass with reduced (EGKF, 418 kg) and increased concentrate supplementation (EGKFplus; 1161 kg) was compared with full-time grazing (FG) with reduced concentrate supplementation on 36 pilot farms in Switzerland. This article describes the set-up and initial results regarding the energy content of the fresh grass. The seventy-head dairy herd on the BBZN Hohenrain school farm in Lucerne was divided into three sub-herds, each of which was kept in one of the three feeding systems. While all three herds had the same amount of land at their disposal as pasture or fodder-growing land (12 ha), the average number of cows and the quantity of concentrate used differed according to the system. Thirty-six pilot farms in the Swiss Plateau were also involved in the project and gave support by participating in study groups focussing on linking practice and transferring knowledge. The highest NEL contents in grass fodder (MJ/kg DM) were measured in spring. These were comparable with reference values. However, compared to continuous grazing, the contents were significantly lower and, particularly during summer, were subject to strong fluctuations. This is a result of the irregular utilisation stage and the influence of summer weather conditions, both of which significantly impact the digestibility of grass fodder. Decision-making aids to support practitioners with forage harvesting could lead to improvements here.

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