High-sugar grass helps dairy cows digest protein more efficiently, a win-win for cows and the environment.

According to research from the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research in Wales, United Kingdom, feeding grass varieties with 16.5 percent sugars to late-lactation cows resulted in 30 percent of the feed nitrogen being turned into milk protein. That’s compared to a 23-percent conversion rate for normal grass with a 12.6-percent sugar content.

The reason for the improved conversion has to do with the rumen microbes. Feeding rumen microbes higher levels of rapidly digestible carbohydrates, like sugars, gives them extra energy. This, in turn, helps cows convert more of the protein they eat into milk protein, instead of excreting it into urine.

That’s good news for the environment. During the study, nitrogen losses decreased in cows fed high-sugar grasses. In fact, 25 percent of feed nitrogen escaped into the urine of animals fed the high-sugar variety versus 35 percent for animals fed normal grass.

The researchers also observed improved feed-protein conversion and reduced nitrogen excretion in mid-lactation cows.

British Seed House Ltd.