Young stock grazing research in productive herb-rich grassland
A new research project started this week on Dairy Campus with in-calf young cattle grazing on plots with a mixture of English Rye Grass and Ribwort Plantain. The research focuses on soil quality and biodiversity, yield and crop quality. We also explore the effect on animal health and animal behavior (especially patterns in grazing and rumination behaviour). With this, the researchers want to get a better picture of the positive contribution of productive herb-rich grassland.
English Ryegrass with Ribwort Plantain
On Dairy Campus, two plots were sown with a meadow mixture English Ryegrass and two plots with the same meadow mixture English Ryegrass and 5 kg of Ribwort Plantain. On these 2 x 2 plots, four groups of in-calf young stock graze for two periods of six weeks in a form of rotating pasture. Measurements are performed on soil and crops when it comes to above and below ground biodiversity, rooting and production of the grassland. Especially the heterogeneity of the plots (grass clumps) and the effect on the occurrence of insects and the effect on the persistence of the Ribwort Plantain are part of the research.
In addition to general health, growth and development, the animals also pay specific attention to the excretion of gastrointestinal worm eggs. Ribwort Plantain would have an inhibitory effect on this. Furthermore, the sensors (SensOor from Cowmanager) record the behavior (eating, ruminating, inactive, active, highly active) on both field types, so that behavioral patterns can be determined. In addition, the sensor measures the ear temperature and can give a heat stress notification. To read the sensors of the in-calf young stock, which graze 24 hours a day and do not enter the barn, special solar beacons have been placed between the plots.
Background and objective
Relatively little knowledge is available about the effect of grazing in combination with productive herb-rich grassland and on biodiversity. By collecting more information using sensors, this project explores how more space for biodiversity can be generated with precision within conventional dairy farming. The aim of this (sub)project is to develop new knowledge and tools to integrate biodiversity and precision grassland management in dairy farms. The following research questions are central to this:
- What is the effect of grazing management on grass clumps and how does this relate to the presence of insects and birds?
- Gain insight into: What is the effect on animal health, resistance and resilience of dairy and young stock?
- Can patterns be discovered in the general behavior of (dairy) cows and grazing behaviour?
- What is the effect of the (permanent) presence of herbs on grazing management and grass uptake?