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Keywords:

  • ergosterol;
  • ×Festulolium braunii;
  • ×Festulolium pabulare;
  • Festuca arundinacea;
  • metabolizable energy;
  • winter grazing

Abstract

×Festulolium ssp. are of particular interest as autumn-saved herbage in the winter grazing system, but information concerning their performance in this low-input system is not available. To this end, we examined dry matter (DM) yield and forage quality in winter of four different cultivars of ×Festulolium ssp. (×Festulolium pabulare, Festulolium braunii), either with festucoid or loloid attributes, compared with Festuca arundinacea Schreb. Furthermore, pre-utilization (accumulation since June or July) and date of winter harvest (December or January) were varied examining the influence of different sward management. DM yield, crude protein, metabolizable energy (ME) (in vitro rumen fermentation technique), acid detergent fibre (ADF) and ergosterol concentration were determined. Within all years, the festucoid cultivars (mean 3.4 t ha−1) attained significant higher yields during winter than the loloid cultivars (mean 1.6 t ha−1), but their yields were comparable with F. arundinacea (mean 3.0 t ha−1). Crude protein was decisively influenced by the different yield levels of the cultivars resulting in higher values for the loloid cultivars. Energy concentrations decreased with later winter harvest, whereas ADF as well as ergosterol concentrations frequently increased from December to January. The greatest differences between festucoid and loloid cultivars were generally observed during severe winters. Obviously, the festucoid cultivars were better adapted to a utilization as autumn-saved herbage than the cultivars with rather loloid attributes. However, the hybrids did not surpass F. arundinacea regarding yield and quality.