Effects of Grazing on the Behaviour, Oxidative and Immune Status, and Production of Organic Dairy Cows

Marco Alabiso, Adriana Bonanno, Antonino Di Grigoli, Daniela Giorgio, Adriana Di Trana, Giuseppe Maniaci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study compared the effects of a short daily grazing time with those of permanent free-stall housing on the behaviour, oxidative status, immune response, and milk production of organically reared cows. During a 63-day period, two homogeneous groups of eight lactating Brown cows were allocated to either housing (H) in a free-stall building for 24 h/day. Feeding was based on a total mixed ration or grazing (G) on barley grass for 5 h/day, and housing in a free-stall structure with feeding was based on the same total mixed ration offered to the H group. With regard to behaviour, H cows spent more time idling, walking, drinking, and self-grooming, whereas G cows showed a greater intent to eat and interact socially. Moreover, G cows exhibited slightly higher reactive oxygen metabolites and similar biological antioxidant potential concentrations than the H group, which indicates that short grazing resulted in an almost negligible increase in oxidative stress and an unchanged antioxidant capacity. Skin tests, performed by injecting phytohemoagglutinin intradermally, indicated that G cows had thicker skin than H cows at the end of the trial, an index of a better cell-mediated immune response. Grazing did not affect milk yield but improved milk quality in terms of an increase in fat and a reduction in urea content, somatic cell count, and total microbial count. Milk from G cows was richer in saturated fatty acids, likely because of the contribution of palmitic acid present in the grazed barley grass, and also showed higher contents of some healthy fatty acids, such as rumenic acid and α-linolenic acid, and a lower omega-6/omega-3 ratio. These results show that including a short grazing time in the diets of organic dairy cows does not have negative consequences for milk production and contributes to improved milk quality as well as to a more efficient immune response in the cows.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalAnimals
Volume9
Publication statusPublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)

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