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Grass silage particle size when fed with or without maize silage alters performance, reticular pH and metabolism of Holstein-Friesian dairy cows

  • U. Tayyab (a1), R. G. Wilkinson (a1), G. L. Charlton (a1), C. K. Reynolds (a2) and L. A. Sinclair (a1)...

Abstract

The particle size of the forage has been proposed as a key factor to ensure a healthy rumen function and maintain dairy cow performance, but little work has been conducted on ryegrass silage (GS). To determine the effect of chop length of GS and GS:maize silage (MS) ratio on the performance, reticular pH, metabolism and eating behaviour of dairy cows, 16 multiparous Holstein-Friesian cows were used in a 4×4 Latin square design with four periods each of 28-days duration. Ryegrass was harvested and ensiled at two mean chop lengths (short and long) and included at two ratios of GS:MS (100:0 or 40:60 dry matter (DM) basis). The forages were fed in mixed rations to produce four isonitrogenous and isoenergetic diets: long chop GS, short chop GS, long chop GS and MS and short chop GS and MS. The DM intake (DMI) was 3.2 kg/day higher (P<0.001) when cows were fed the MS than the GS-based diets. The short chop length GS also resulted in a 0.9 kg/day DM higher (P<0.05) DMI compared with the long chop length. When fed the GS:MS-based diets, cows produced 2.4 kg/day more (P<0.001) milk than when fed diets containing GS only. There was an interaction (P<0.05) between chop length and forage ratio for milk yield, with a short chop length GS increasing yield in cows fed GS but not MS-based diets. An interaction for DM and organic matter digestibility was also observed (P<0.05), where a short chop length GS increased digestibility in cows when fed the GS-based diets but had little effect when fed the MS-based diet. When fed the MS-based diets, cows spent longer at reticular pH levels below pH 6.2 and pH 6.5 (P<0.01), but chop length had little effect. Cows when fed the MS-based diets had a higher (P<0.05) milk fat concentration of C18 : 2n-6 and total polyunsaturated fatty acids compared with when fed the GS only diets. In conclusion, GS chop length had little effect on reticular pH, but a longer chop length reduced DMI and milk yield but had little effect on milk fat yield. Including MS reduced reticular pH, but increased DMI and milk performance irrespective of the GS chop length.

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