Dairy cow

Dairy production systems based on grazing alfalfa

Maria Villagrasa & Fernando Diaz

Grazing has economic, health and animal welfare advantages when compared to breeding in total confinement. However, it is necessary to know and treat each plant species adequately to make the most of it. One of the most used pasture species for grazing is alfalfa, particularly in temperate climates.

Alfalfa has on average 8% pectins, 10% hemicellulose, 25% cellulose and between 7-8% lignin. Therefore, it ensures a rapid transit through the digestive tract, a significant supply of soluble fiber and high buffering capacity. It is a good source of macro minerals, especially calcium, chlorine and potassium. Its content in microminerals (manganese, zinc), vitamins (E, D, biotin and provitamin A), and pigments is also high.

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Alfalfa nutritive value when harvested at different maturity stages, what should we expect?

Francisco E. Contreras Govea

Alfalfa, either for silage or hay, is the primary legume forage for diet formulation of lactating dairy cows in the United States. It is well documented that alfalfa nutritive value decline as maturity stage change from bud to flowering, finding that 10% blooming as the optimal time for harvesting, because of the intersection between nutritive value and forage yield (Orloff and Putnam, 2008).

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