Supplemental dietary protein for grazing dairy cows: Effect on pasture intake and lactation performance

M. E. McCormick, J. D. Ward, D. D. Redfearn, D. D. French, D. C. Blouin, A. M. Chapa, J. M. Fernandez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One hundred twenty-four cows (92 multiparous and 32 primiparous) were used to evaluate the effect of grain supplements containing high crude protein [(22.8% CP, 5.3% rumen undegradable protein (RUP), dry matter basis], moderate CP (16.6% CP, 6.1% RUP), and moderate CP with supplemental RUP (16.2% CP, 10.8% RUP) on lactation performance of Holstein cows rotationally grazing annual ryegrass-oat pastures. Supplemental protein was provided by solvent extracted soybean meal in the high CP and moderate CP supplements and as a corn gluten meal-blood meal mixture (2.8:1) in the moderate CP, high RUP supplement. Cows were blocked according to previous mature milk equivalent production and calving date (partum group; 0 d in milk or postpartum group; 21 to 65 d in milk) and randomly assigned to dietary treatments. Grain was individually fed, at approximately a 1:3 grain to milk ratio, before a.m. and p.m milkings. The study was replicated during two grazing seasons that averaged 199 d. Cows had ad libitum access to bermudagrass hay while on pasture (dry matter intake = 1.3 kg/d). Protein supplementation had no effect on study long pasture dry matter (12.7 ± 1.0 kg/d) or total dry matter (23.9 ± 1.2 kg/d) consumption. Protein concentration did not affect actual milk yield of either calving group (high CP vs. moderate CP); however, postpartum group cows receiving high CP grain supplements maintained greater milk fat concentrations (3.34 vs. 3.11%), which led to higher fat-corrected milk (FCM) yields than control cows receiving moderate CP grain diets (30.3 vs. 28.9 kg/d). Crude protein concentration in milk of high CP-supplemented, postpartum group cows was also higher than moderate CP cows (3.42 vs. 3.27%). Additional RUP did not increase FCM yield above that generated by moderate CP grain diets for partum (34.3 vs. 32.9 kg/d) or postpartum-group cows (28.9 vs. 28.2 kg/d). Increasing CP concentration of grain supplement did not affect milk yield of Holstein cows grazing immature winter annual pastures. Supplementing additional RUP was without benefit, indicating that in this study energy deprivation may have been the major nutritional constraint for high-producing dairy cows grazing lush pastures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)896-907
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Dairy cows
  • Dietary protein
  • Milk
  • Pasture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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