Lucerne in dairy systems

Professor Derrick Moot was on a dairy farm in the North Island last week where he took these images of dairy cows enjoying a pure lucerne stand prior to their afternoon milking. The farmer uses the lucerne from about 11.00am and then collects the cows after lunch for milking. Prof Moot advised the entry height of ~30 cm was ideal. The lucerne is fed directly each day and the cows eat for about 45-50 minutes before lying down and ruminating about “how good was that?” until being walked to the shed (see photos below video taken by Derrick Moot showing the herd heading directly towards the new break). The grazing interval is based on the rate of regrowth. If the later paddocks are getting too long (<40 cm) they are dropped from the rotation and taken for silage. The aim is to ensure all paddocks are grazed at around 30 cm height. The region of lucerne use is on free draining soils which is prone to be summer dry so the lucerne keeps growing when the ryegrass has slowed down. The manager commented that there is not problem getting the cows ready for the afternoon graze “they are often lined up at the gate ready to go.” They are offered about 5-7 kg/hd/d and the lucerne maintains the lactation peak longer in the summer than on nearby perennial ryegrass based pastures.