Dairy producers and their nutritionists are seeing the value of adding grasses to their herds' diets – to cool high-energy alfalfa-corn silage rations and add effective fiber.

The September issue of Hay & Forage Grower, a special edition that reaches dairy producers around the country, explores how grasses can be grown, used in high-forage diets and prevent diet-related problems, including laminitis and displaced abomasums (DAs).

Dairy rations with 55-75% forage keep cows healthy – especially if grasses are in that forage mix, says Charlie Sniffen, an independent dairy nutritionist with Fencrest, Inc., Holderness, NH, in the article Add Grass To High-Forage Dairy Diets.

“We’ve been feeding dry cows on alfalfa and corn silage because that’s all we have on the farm, and the cows freshen and become sick. They DA, you name it. We solve that problem by feeding them a lot of straw and give them ‘effective fiber.’ Now, if that isn’t nuts, I don’t know what is.”

He admits that producers buy straw because it’s a more consistent product than purchased grass could be. “It’s a good practice if that’s all you’ve got. But I keep urging them, ‘You really should put some grass in your program.’ ”

Another article explores what it takes to grow grasses efficiently, quoting Geoff Brink, USDA-ARS research agronomist at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center. Brink will speak on that same topic Thursday, Sept. 30, as part of the Dairy Forage Toolbox Seminar series at World Dairy Expo.

Finding the right mix of grasses to legumes in a stand is the focus of another story quoting Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin Extension forage agronomist. He developed a Hay and Pasture Seeding-Rate Calculator spreadsheet to help growers determine seeding rates for grass-legume mixtures. For more info, see Alfalfa-Grass Mixes That Milk. With the story are three photos showing stands with the right mix of alfalfa-grass, too much alfalfa and too much grass.

Other stories in the Dairy-Forage Nutrition Issue focus on tools for tracking ration changes; a tillering brown midrib forage corn said to produce up to 5 tons/acre of high-energy, high-protein dry matter in 60 days; and why and what producers should check regarding corn silage quality.

A digital version of the issue can be retrieved here. To read the text of specific stories, click here.