Birdsfoot trefoil - an alternative legume for New Zealand dairy pastures


  • S.L. Harris
  • D.A. Clark
  • P.J. Laboyrie



Two grazing trials conducted with Friesian cows in mid lactation showed milk yields were higher on birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)-dominant pasture (19.8 and 16.7 l/cow/day) than on white clover-dominant (17.8 and 15.4 l/cow/day) or ryegrass-dominant (13.0 and 11.7 l/cow/day) pastures. Increased milk production on the Lotus and clover was attributed to the higher nutritive value of the legume-based pasture compared with the ryegrass, and to higher dry matter intakes. Cows grazing Lotus also had improved feed conversion efficiency compared with those grazing either ryegrass or clover, indicating that the presence of condensed tannins in the Lotus may have contributed to the improved efficiency. Milk protein concentration was consistently higher on the Lotus (3.36 and 3.35%) than on the ryegrass (3.15 and 3.21%) or clover (3.30 and 3.21%) in both experiments, while milk fat levels were lower in Experiment 1. While Lotus increased milk yield and milk protein concentration, its potential as a forage legume for dairy cows also depends on annual herbage production and the determination of how best to utilise it in a farm system. Keywords: birdsfoot trefoil, dairy cows, dry matter intake, Lotus corniculatus, milk composition, milk yield, perennial ryegrass, white clover







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