Kikuyu (Pennisetum clandestinum) is highly productive during summer and autumn and capable of supporting high cattle stocking rates., The winter and spring production of kikuyu, however, is low, while forage quality, and consequently milk production per cow, is also low compared to temperate grass species. The aim of this study was to determine the dry matter yield, botanical composition, nutritional value, grazing capacity and milk production potential of irrigated kikuyu over-sown with Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum var. italicum), Westerwolds ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum var. westerwoldicum) or perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) under an intensive grazing system with Jersey cows. Calibrations for the rising plate meter (RPM) were developed for the kikuyu-ryegrass systems. These calibrations were evaluated for seasonal variation, linearity and were also combined over seasons, treatments and years to develop a calibration equation that could be used by dairy farmers in the region. The three kikuyu based pasture systems reached their peak growth rates during different months and seasons. All treatments experienced lower growth rates during winter, while peak growth rates occurred during spring for the Italian ryegrass treatment; summer for the Westerwolds ryegrass treatment and late spring/early summer for the perennial ryegrass treatment. All three treatments had similar total annual dry matter yields (kg DM ha-1) during the first year of the study. However, during year 2 the PR treatment had a higher annual DM production than IR and WR treatments. The ability of the PR treatment to maintain DM production during periods when the other treatments underwent a dip in production (WR during spring and IR during summer) enabled the PR treatment to maintain a higher annual DM production during year 2 than the systems based on annual ryegrass species. As the kikuyu component increased in kikuyu-ryegrass pastures from winter to summer, the DM and NDF content increased, while the ME content decreased. All three treatments were deficient in Ca throughout the study and deficient in P during summer and autumn for high producing dairy cows. The Ca:P ratio was below the recommended ratio of 1.6:1 for high producing dairy cows throughout the study. The grazing capacity of all three kikuyu-ryegrass systems was lower during winter and autumn than during spring and summer. The seasonal grazing capacity of the perennial ryegrass treatment, however, was more evenly distributed than that of the Italian and Westerwolds ryegrass treatments. The perennial ryegrass treatment had a lower butterfat and milk production per lactation than the Italian and Westerwolds ryegrass treatments during both years, but had the highest milk production per ha. The latter was a result of the higher annual grazing capacity achieved by the perennial ryegrass treatment. It was thus concluded that, because kikuyu over-sown with perennial ryegrass supported a higher number of animals and had a more evenly distributed fodder-flow, it allowed for higher animal production per ha than kikuyu over-sown with annual ryegrass varieties such as Italian and Westerwolds ryegrass. The pre-grazing and post-grazing regressions of all three the kikuyu based pastures developed for the RPM differed over seasons and years, primarily due to the change in botanical composition from ryegrass based pastures during winter to kikuyu-based pastures in the summer and the associated change in pasture structure. The post-grazing regressions developed during the study did not have a lower degree of accuracy (R2 values) than the pre-grazing regressions. The generalised RPM regression equations developed for kikuyu-ryegrass pastures (consisting of large data sets pooled over treatments and years) could be of use to farmers in the surrounding area, but are not recommended for research purposes due to the large errors and variation associated with such regressions. In the event that farmers employ these calibrations it is important that pasture type and pasture management practices be similar to those utilised during the study. The decision on which kikuyu-ryegrass system to utilize should be based on the specific conditions prevalent on a particular farm, an economic analysis on and a comparison between the three systems, as well as the particular fodder-flow program requirements within the pasture system.
Dissertation (MSc(Agric))--University of Pretoria, 2011.