Dietary ratios of maize silage to lucerne hay affected feed intake, chewing activity, and milk production of dairy cows.

Akbari-Afjani, A., Zali, A., Gangkhanlou, M., Dehghan-Banadaky, M., Nasrollahi, S.M., and Yang, W.-Z. (2014). "Dietary ratios of maize silage to lucerne hay affected feed intake, chewing activity, and milk production of dairy cows.", Animal Production Science, 54(3), pp. 263-269. doi : 10.1071/AN12214  Access to full text

Abstract

The present study investigated the effects of substitution of chopped lucerne hay (LH) for maize silage on feed intake, rumen pH and fermentation, digestibility, milk production and feed efficiency of dairy cows. Fifteen Holstein dairy cows in early lactation (37 ± 10 days in milk) were randomly assigned to three dietary treatments in a completely randomised design. The experiment lasted for 80 days, with 10 days of adaptation and 70 days of data collection. Treatment diets consisted of 60% concentrate and 40% forage, comprising 30 : 10 (MS30), 20 : 20 (MS20) or 10 : 30 (MS10) of maize silage (MS) to LH ratio (MS : LH). Cows were fed ad libitum as total mixed ration. Water was added daily to adjust the moisture content of the feed to be similar across diets. Decreasing the ratio of MS : LH resulted in linear and quadratic decreases of DM intake and physically effective neutral detergent fibre, without affecting apparent digestibility in the total digestive tract. Decreasing MS : LH also linearly reduced total chewing time and tended to reduced chewing index (min/kg DM intake), but had limited effects on rumen pH and fermentation characteristics. Increasing the substitution of LH for MS decreased milk production (33.1, 31.7, and 29.8 kg/day for MS30, MS20, and MS10, respectively), and tended (P = 0.06) to decrease 4% fat-corrected milk and fat yield. However, milk content of protein (2.70%, 2.77% and 2.77%) and fat improved, and tended to improve by decreasing the MS : LH ratio, respectively. The efficiency of milk production, expressed as either milk yield/kg DM intake or 4% fat-corrected milk/kg DM intake, was not affected by the treatments. Results indicated that under the current feeding conditions, decreasing the ratio of MS : LH was not recommended to maintain milk production and DM intake.

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