A new alfalfa variety, developed by plant breeders at Cornell University, could boost milk production for dairy producers.

Highly digestible, N-R-Gee is predicted to increase milk production up to 3.3 lbs/day compared with an industry standard, says Julie Hansen, a senior research associate in plant breeding and genetics at Cornell. That bump translates to $181/cow assuming a 305-day lactation and an $18/cwt milk price. In a 113-cow dairy herd, the average size in New York, that would add up to an extra $20,000/year, she says.

N-R-Gee has a lower percentage of indigestible fiber – which fills a cow's belly but passes through as waste – and a higher percentage of carbohydrates and pectin, which cows can convert to milk. With less fiber taking up space in her stomach, a cow can eat more of the high-quality alfalfa and produce more milk.

"More intake and more digestibility: Those two things combined, we think, are going to make a pretty significant impact for the dairy industry," Hansen says.

The variety was selected for resistance to multiple diseases that are problematic in the Northeast, including bacterial, verticillium and fusarium wilts, anthracnose and phytophthora root rot.

The variety was licensed by the Cornell Center for Technology Enterprise and Commercialization and is marketed by Seedway, LLC.