It helps keep cows healthy, experts say...

Dairy rations consisting of 55-75% forage can help solve a few cow-health problems, says Charlie Sniffen, an independent nutritionist and consultant. They can provide the all-important effective fiber that will help minimize digestive disorders and lameness, agrees Randy Shaver, University of Wisconsin dairy scientist.

But adding grasses to those high-forage diets may clear up even more troubles, says Sniffen, of Fencrest, Holderness, NH.

He usually sees two types of dairy producers who could be helped by adding more forage to their rations. One kind has expanded to where he can no longer produce enough hay or silage on his land, so he buys it from others, causing a nutrient imbalance by not being able to recycle phosphorus and other nutrients.

The second sort of producer has a high-quality corn silage-alfalfa ration that needs additional effective fiber to cool the ration – and he decides to buy straw.

Adding grass could help both types.

In the case of the first producer, Sniffen isn’t against expansion – he just believes that expansion should have included more home-grown forages as part of its plan.

“There’s a mentality that forages are a pain in the neck,” he says. Yet it takes work to find a grower who can provide a product with consistent quality.

By growing grasses, producers can maintain more control over quality. Those grasses could then be added to the forage quotient or take the place of some of the corn silage or alfalfa in the ration. And it’s easier to balance nutrients that can be taken up by plants, fed to cows and recycled back to the soil.

Add Grass to High-Forage Dairy Diets