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Methane production, nutrient digestion, ruminal fermentation, N balance, and milk production of cows fed timothy silage- or alfalfa silage-based diets

Hassanat, F., Gervais, R., Massé, D.I., Petit, H.V., Benchaar, C. (2014). Methane production, nutrient digestion, ruminal fermentation, N balance, and milk production of cows fed timothy silage- or alfalfa silage-based diets, 97(10), 6463-6474.


© 2014 American Dairy Science Association. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of changing forage source in dairy cow diets from timothy silage (TS) to alfalfa silage (AS) on enteric CH4 emissions, ruminal fermentation characteristics, digestion, milk production, and N balance. Nine ruminally cannulated lactating cows were used in a replicated 3×3 Latin square design (32-d period) and fed (ad libitum) a total mixed ration (TMR; forage:concentrate ratio of 60:40, dry matter basis), with the forage portion consisting of either TS (0% AS; 0% AS and 54.4% TS in the TMR), a 50:50 mixture of both silages (50% AS; 27.2% AS and 27.2% TS in the TMR), or AS (100% AS; 54.4% AS and 0% TS in the TMR). Compared with TS, AS contained less (36.9 vs. 52.1%) neutral detergent fiber but more (20.5 vs. 13.6%) crude protein (CP). In sacco 24-h ruminal degradability of organic matter (OM) was higher for AS than for TS (73.5 vs. 66.9%). Replacement of TS with AS in the diet entailed increasing proportions of corn grain and bypass protein supplement at the expense of soybean meal. As the dietary proportion of AS increased, CP and starch concentrations increased, whereas fiber content declined in the TMR. Dry matter intake increased linearly with increasing AS proportions in the diet. Apparent total-tract digestibility of OM and gross energy remained unaffected, whereas CP digestibility increased linearly and that of fiber decreased linearly with increasing inclusion of AS in the diet. The acetate-to-propionate ratio was not affected, whereas ruminal concentration of ammonia (NH3) and molar proportion of branched-chain VFA increased as the proportion of AS in the diet increased. Daily CH4 emissions tended to increase (476, 483, and 491g/d for cows fed 0% AS, 50% AS, and 100% AS, respectively) linearly as cows were fed increasing proportions of AS. Methane production adjusted for dry matter intake (average=19.8g/kg) or gross energy intake (average=5.83%) was not affected by increasing AS inclusion in the diet. When expressed on a fat-corrected milk or energy-corrected milk yield basis, CH4 production increased linearly with increasing AS dietary proportion. Urinary N excretion (g/d) increased linearly when cows were fed increasing amounts of AS in the diet, suggesting a potential for higher nitrous oxide (N2O) and NH3 emissions. Efficiency of dietary N use for milk protein secretion (g of milk N/g of N intake) declined with the inclusion of AS in the diet. Despite marked differences in chemical composition and ruminal degradability, under the conditions of this study, replacing TS with AS in dairy cow diets was not effective in reducing CH4 energy losses.

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