New York Research Explores Potential of Grass-Mix Dairy Forage

Northern New York Agricultural Development Program (NNYADP) reported on research that evaluated opportunities to increase the value of alfalfa-grass forage crops. The northern New York regional climate has spurred farmers’ interest in growing winter-hardy perennial grasses in combination with alfalfa, traditionally the dairy industry’s go-to crop for highly-digestible, high protein forage to support milk production. “Adding as little as 5% grass in an alfalfa-grass seeding will significantly increase the fiber digestibility of that forage mix compared to an all-alfalfa crop, and a 1% unit increase in fiber digestibility can bring from 0.5 to more than one pound of milk production per cow per day,” says NNYADP alfalfa-grass project leader Debbie J.R. Cherney, a Cornell University Animal Science professor. “If the grass percentage is less than 50% of the mix, the crude protein content of the mix is going to be sufficient for lactating dairy cows,” Cherney points out.