Alternatives to Timothy in Fodder


Source: Novalait


Project entitled: Improving Fodder Grass in the Context of Climate Change

Édith Charbonneau, Gaétan Tremblay, Gilles Bélanger, Philippe Séguin, Annie Classens, Doris Pellerin, Rachel Gervais, Julie Lajeunesse, Guy Allard, Robert Berthiaume


  • Due to climate change, fodder production in the province of Quebec must be adapted.
  • Timothy grass is a plant that grows well in cool climates, but the current climate is beginning to make it less advantageous.
  • An alternative must be found to Timothy grass that is better suited to the growing conditions in Quebec.



Determine the best fodder grass for production in the face of climate change.

Specific objectives:

  • Assess alternative grasses to Timothy grass grown in association with alfalfa.
  • Assess the impact of replacing Timothy grass with tall fescue preserved in the form of wilted or semi-dry silage in the fodder rations of lactating cows.
  • Assess the impact of the choice of pure plant species and alfalfa-based binary associations in crop rotations, with or without intensive management, on farm profitability.
  • Develop a selection method and produce germoplasms that can be used to develop rapid regrowth varieties of Timothy grass.

Results and potential benefits

The results anticipated at the end of the project are:

  • The grass with the best association with alfalfa in Quebec’s growing conditions.
  • Animal consumption of tall fescue and animal performance when the fescue is preserved in the form of wilted or semi-dry silage in comparison with Timothy grass.
  • The best grass-alfalfa binary association from a technical-economic and environmental point of view when the dairy farm is considered as the only decision-making unit
  • The development of Timothy grass germoplasms with the fastest regrowth rates.

Potential benefits:

  • Increased knowledge about fodder species that will best allow dairy producers in Quebec to make more informed choices. It will be possible to develop recommendations for choosing plant species as well as how they should be managed.
  • The results of this optimization study, based on a global farm model, will help to confirm the most profitable strategy for dairy producers and to quantify the environmental impact of the choices made.
  • The genetic selection of Timothy grass will allow for the development of a population a with faster regrowth rate, which will also make it possible to develop new plant varieties.
  • Ultimately, this project will improve adaptation to climate change. Most of the results will be able to be used directly on farms since fodder crop management is essential to a dairy farm’s success.


Professionals trained

Florence Pomerleau-Lacasse is currently an undergraduate student at McGill University. She has participated in plant experimentation monitoring in the summer of 2015 and will again participate in summer 2016. She will be enrolling as a master’s student in the Department of Plant Science in 2016. She will then be responsible for the fodder grass plot testing component of the project.

Anne-Marie Richard began her master’s in animal science at Université Laval in winter 2016. She is responsible for the animal testing component of the project and is comparing the use of tall fescue to that of Timothy grass in dairy cow feed.

Véronique Ouellet is currently completing her PhD in animal science at Université Laval. She is responsible for the modelling component of the project. These results will determine the economic and environmental impacts on the farm as a whole, as well as the practices that will be proposed as part of this project.


Financial contributions

Partnership for innovation in dairy production and dairy processing (EPI:2011-2017):

  • Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies
  • Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec
  • Novalait

Centre de recherche en sciences animales de Deschambault for animal experimentation

AAFC for germoplasm selection