Deutsche Saatveredelung AG (DSV)

Milk Index - the brand for high forage quality



DSV is leading in forage quality

For a number of years, the DSV breeders have not only selected for yield, disease resistance and other traditional criteria, they have also analyzed the most important forage quality parameters. DSV has taken a new step forward in forage grass breeding, with all varieties being tested for digestibility of organic matter, crude protein, water soluble carbohydrates (mainly sugar), cell wall fraction, digestibility of cell wall and ash content.


How does “Milk Index” work?

All high-quality forage varieties or mixtures are easily identified by the „Milk Index“ (MI) symbol. Varieties marked with this symbol are not only tested by DSV: Milk Index varieties offer outstanding forage quality based on the NIAB list for recommended grass and clover varieties and other independent European institutes. Since a long time forage quality already forms part of the NIAB evaluation process in England and Wales. It is a very important aspect of variety recommendation there. Since the forage quality of grasses has been attracting a lot of attention all over continental Europe as well, it may become part of the official recommendation there too.


What benefits does it offer to farmers?

Forage quality has been essential for British farmers for many years. The forage quality of grasses has been an essential aspect of variety recommendation in England and Wales for a long time, with
official tests examining the following parameters:

  • d-value midsummer (digestibility under simulated grazing management)
  • d-value 2nd conservation cut (digestibility of the second silage cut in the first year of use)

According to NIAB, the official institute for variety evaluation in England and Wales, trials have shown that

  • animals eat more grass of a variety with a high d-value (digestibility)
  • in situations, when enough forage is available, higher digestibility has a huge impact on animal performance


Delayed harvest with AstonEnergy – higher yields, still good quality!

The yield and quality (digestibility) of grass at the first silage cut in May is largely determined by the heading date of the variety or varieties in a mixture. Even within one ripening group the earlier ones tend to have a higher yield, but lower quality than those heading at the end. Later heading varieties within the group can therefore be cut later and still produce good quality silage. Yield will also increase. Data from official NIAB trials in the UK, and own DSV trials, have shown the effects on yield and quality of different varieties when cutting is delayed. AstonEnergy has shown that when the cut is later, the yield increases, but forage quality still remains on a high level.

The timing of the first cut can also have an effect on the yield and quality of the second silage cut. Weather conditions also play their part, but the genetics of the variety have a very significant effect. The DSV trials have shown that the yields of the second cut were almost identical, but there were big differences in quality when the first cut was done earlier or later.
The second cut digestibility of the trial cut earlier at the first cut was nearly 4 % lower than the later cut trial. In both trials AstonEnergy had the highest digestibility.   

Detailed information and trial results: Read this article...

Lower methane emissions with AstonEnergy

Methane emission from dairy cows contributes to global warming. The production of methane (CH4) in rumen fermentation also represents a significant loss of dietary energy for the dairy cow. Therefore, reducing methane emissions from dairy cows has environmental as well as economic benefits.

Scientific research and model calculations have shown that improving the forage quality of grass by means of a lower cell wall fraction and increased digestibility could contribute to reducing undesirable methane emissions from dairy cows.

For many years, DSV has continuously analysed the dry matter composition and digestibility of registered varieties and new candidates. These analyses enabled the selection of specific perennial ryegrass varieties with consistent higher digestibility compared to other tested varieties.

Quality results from forage trials conducted at different locations confirm the high digestibility of the Milk Index variety AstonEnergy. This high digestibility not only enables a higher milk production, but also lowers the methane emission. AstonEnergy distinguishes itself from other varieties by lower cellulose and hemicellulose fractions, in addition to an above-average digestibility. A model calculation demonstrates that this quality profile results in lower methane emissions from rumen fermentation. Calculated reductions in methane losses for AstonEnergy compared to other tested varieties vary between 4,6 % for a ration composed of grass silage, maize silage and concentrates up to 8,4 % for a grazing ration of grass and concentrates.

Detailed information and trial results: Read this article


Increased digestibility = better performance


 Conclusion: Is digestibility of forage (D-value) one unit better, a cow gives 0,2 l - 0,25 l* more milk per day.




Calculation feeding quality:

When grass silage/fresh grass of AstonEnergy (unlimited intake) is given, then a dairy cow will produce additional 0.75 l milk per day compared to a dairy cow, fed with silage, which is produced out of all other tetraploid intermediate perennial ryegrasses (without hybrids and AstonEnergy).

     Calculated for a 305-days-lactation of a dairy cow (milk giving period): 0.75 l x 305 = 229 l.
     That means for 100 dairy cows:                                   

22,900 l more milk are possible with AstonEnergy!

DSV varieties and mixtures with Milk Index

Initially, DSV only analyzed the feed quality of perennial ryegrass, the most important forage grass species in Europe, but a few years ago the company decided to expand its focus from perennial
ryegrass to other species in order to identify which varieties offered superior forage quality.

Perennial ryegrass
ALFONSO (late, tetraploid perennial ryegrass)
ASTONENERGY (intermediate, tetraploid perennial ryegrass)
ASTONPRINCESS (late, tetraploid perennial ryegrass)
ASTONAMBER (late, tetraploid perennial ryegrass)
FORNIDO (late, tetraploid perennial ryegrass)
KAIMAN (late, diploid perennial ryegrass)
ROSSERA (late, diploid perennial ryegrass)
Italian ryegrass
LITONIO (tetraploid)
Meadow fescue
TETRAX (tetraploid)

Forage grass mixtures

COUNTRY Energy 2027 Milk Index (top-quality mixture with 100 % perennial ryegrass; only comprising high-quality forage varieties (ASTONENERGY, FORNIDO and HERBAL))


What is important to know about forage quality?

The forage quality of grasses is determined by different factors, which as a whole influence palatability, digestibility and nutritive value of fresh grass or silage. High forage quality has influence on…


The ratio of protein and energy in terms of amount and synchrony in time of availability in the rumen strongly influences the milk (protein) yield. Rumen microbes can rapidly degrade herbage protein and, depending on the available energy, synthesize this into microbial protein which can efficiently be utilised in milk protein production. To optimise the potential microbial protein synthesis rapidly available energy in form of sugar is necessary. When this energy is missing the rumen-degradable protein is not fully utilised in milk protein production. The rate of forage degradation i.e. cell wall digestibility is very important for the synchrony of protein and energy in the rumen. Once the cell wall is degraded, sugar is easily available as a rapidly degradable source of energy.  In general, due to a higher passage rate, a higher cell wall digestibility increases the potential forage (DM) intake and as such also the animal performance.

Silage making

Cell wall digestibility (DNDF) and sugar content also play a major role in silage making. The ensiling process is based on exclusion of air (anaerobic environment) and acidification in which lactic acid bacteria convert sugar to lactic acid. The cell wall structure strongly determines the availability of sugar for lactic acid bacteria. When the cell wall is highly digestible, the cell wall is easily degraded and sugar in thecell contents can easily be reached by lactic acid bacteria. A high sugar content stimulates an ideal lactic acid fermentation resulting in a rapid pH reduction and consequently a high storage stability.

DSV analyses the quality parameters mentioned in the table for both new applicants and registered varieties. The aim of the comprehensive analyses is to develop varieties with improved performance compared to existing varieties regarding the multitude of quality parameters.


Why did DSV introduce this brand?

Identification of the high feeding quality variety is much easier, for farmers and dealers as well.
In future feeding quality will be very important in grass breeding, right next to yield, disease resistance or sward density.
In maize it is already an important parameter in feeding and breeding