The effects of cereal type and α-tocopherol level on milk production, milk composition, rumen fermentation, and nitrogen excretion of spring-calving dairy cows in late lactation.


School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, Lyons Research Farm, Lyons Estate, Celbridge, Naas, Co. Kildare, Ireland W23 ENY2. Electronic address: [Email]


Grass-based production systems use concentrate supplementation primarily when pasture quality and availability have declined. Barley is a common concentrate ingredient; however, oat grain grows well in Ireland, is a source of lipids and fiber, and may provide an alternative to barley. The antioxidant α-tocopherol (α-TOC) plays a role in cell membrane structure, and it has the potential to improve tight junction structures of the mammary gland that deteriorate in late lactation. The objective of this research was to investigate the effect of cereal type and α-TOC level on milk yield, milk composition, rumen fermentation, and N excretion in late-lactation dairy cows at pasture and when housed indoors on grass silage. Forty-eight Holstein Friesian dairy cows were blocked on days in milk (+185 d in milk) and balanced for parity, pre-experimental milk yield, milk composition, and body condition score and assigned to 1 of 4 dietary treatments in a randomized complete block design (n = 12). The dietary treatments were control (C) base diet; base diet + barley-based concentrate + low α-TOC (350 IU/kg) (B); base diet + oat-based concentrate + low α-TOC (350 IU/kg) (O); and base diet + oat-based concentrate + high α-TOC (1,050 IU/kg) (O+T). Following a 14-d acclimation period, diets were offered for a 49-d experimental period at pasture (P1) and a 21-d experimental period indoors (P2). The base diet was grazed grass in P1 and grass silage in P2. In P2, cows on C also received 2.65 kg (dry matter) of a standard concentrate. In P1, supplementation increased milk and milk solids yield (B: 20.7 kg/d, 1.74 kg/d; O: 20.6 kg/d, 1.81 kg/d; O+T: 20.5 kg/d, 1.77 kg/d, respectively) compared with C (17.8 kg/d, 1.60 kg/d). Cows offered B had a lower milk fat (4.60%) concentration than C (5.00%) and O (4.90%). In P2, cereal type and α-TOC level did not alter milk production. In conclusion, concentrate supplementation increased milk and milk solids yield and cows offered O had a higher milk fat concentration than cows offered B. Increasing the level of α-TOC had no major effect on production parameters measured in P1 or in P2.


concentrate supplementation,dairy cow,late lactation,oat grain,α-tocopherol,