Milk production and enteric methane emissions by dairy cows grazing fertilized perennial ryegrass pasture with or without inclusion of white clover

D. Enriquez-Hidalgo, T. Gilliland, M. H. Deighton, M. O'Donovan, D. Hennessy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


An experiment was undertaken to investigate the effect of white clover inclusion in grass swards (GWc) compared with grass-only (GO) swards receiving high nitrogen fertilization and subjected to frequent and tight grazing on herbage and dairy cow productivity and enteric methane (CH4) emissions. Thirty cows were allocated to graze either a GO or GWc sward (n=15) from April 17 to October 31, 2011. Fresh herbage [16kg of dry matter (DM)/cow] and 1kg of concentrate/cow were offered daily. Herbage DM intake (DMI) was estimated on 3 occasions (May, July, and September) during which 17kg of DM/cow per day was offered (and concentrate supplementation was withdrawn). In September, an additional 5 cows were added to each sward treatment (n=20) and individual CH4 emissions were estimated using the sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) technique. Annual clover proportion (±SE) in the GWc swards was 0.20±0.011. Swards had similar pregrazing herbage mass (1,800±96kg of DM/ha) and herbage production (13,110±80kg of DM/ha). The GWc swards tended to have lower DM and NDF contents but greater CP content than GO swards, but only significant differences were observed in the last part of the grazing season. Cows had similar milk and milk solids yields (19.4±0.59 and 1.49±0.049kg/d, respectively) and similar milk composition. Cows also had similar DMI in the 3 measurement periods (16.0±0.70kg DM/cow per d). Similar sward and animal performance was observed during the CH4 estimation period, but GWc swards had 7.4% less NDF than GO swards. Cows had similar daily and per-unit-of-output CH4 emissions (357.1±13.6g of CH4/cow per day, 26.3±1.14g of CH4/kg of milk, and 312.3±11.5g of CH4/kg of milk solids) but cows grazing GWc swards had 11.9% lower CH4 emissions per unit of feed intake than cows grazing GO swards due to the numerically lower CH4 per cow per day and a tendency for the GWc cows to have greater DMI compared with the GO cows. As a conclusion, under the conditions of this study, sward clover content in the GWc swards was not sufficient to improve overall sward herbage production and quality, or dairy cow productivity. Although GWc cows had a tendency to consume more and emitted less CH4 per unit of feed intake than GO cows, no difference was observed in daily or per-unit-of-output CH4 emissions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1400-1412
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number3
Early online date6 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014


  • CH emission
  • Herbage production
  • Milk and milk solids production
  • White clover


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