9 June 1995

SAC work to show elite cows a menu

DAIRY cow research is set to take a giant leap forward if a £2m multi-centre, three-pronged project lives up to early expectations.

Researchers at the Scottish Agricultural Colleges Langhill herd, Edinburgh, will ask average and high genetic merit cows what they want to eat at various stages of lactation. "The outcome will be a better understanding of the nutritional demand of high indexing cows over a whole lactation – with results coming from cows rather than guesses from a textbook," says Dr John Oldham, head of the SACs genetics and behavioural sciences department.

He is also involved in a three-year, MAFF-funded project, alongside Leeds University, Wye College, the Hillsborough Research Institute, Northern Ireland, and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research. The aim is a better understanding of feed intake by dairy cows. For example, grazing cows will be given the choice of pastures with high and low nitrogen fertiliser applications. If cows are selective, it will allow a more accurate prediction of fertiliser regimes. That work will be linked to research examining the effect of sward height, density, and leaf size and intake.

A third project will investigate whether high indexing cows are more at risk from metabolic stress than low index herdmates.


&#8226 For a full report, see Dairy Update (June 2).

SACresearcher Dr John Oldham …letting cows choose their diet.