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J Dairy Sci. 2008 Jul;91(7):2694-701. doi: 10.3168/jds.2007-0897.

Nutrient demand interacts with forage family to affect intake and digestion responses in dairy cows.

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Department of Animal Science, Michigan State University, East Lansing 48824, USA.


The effect of feed intake in the preliminary period on responses to diets containing alfalfa silage or orchardgrass silage was evaluated using 8 ruminally and duodenally cannulated Holstein cows in a crossover design experiment with a 14-d preliminary period and two 15-d treatment periods. Responses measured were DMI, rates of fiber digestion and passage, and milk production. Cows were 139 +/- 83 (mean +/- SD) d in milk at the beginning of the preliminary period. During the preliminary period, 3.5% fat-corrected milk yield ranged from 23.9 to 47.6 kg/d (mean = 36.9 kg/d) and preliminary voluntary DMI (pVDMI) ranged from 14.2 to 21.3 kg/d (mean = 18.6 kg/d). The 2 treatments were a diet containing alfalfa silage as the sole forage (AL) and a diet containing orchardgrass silage as the sole forage (OG). Alfalfa silage contained 43% neutral detergent fiber (NDF; dry-matter basis) and orchardgrass silage contained 48% NDF; diets contained approximately 23% forage NDF and 27% total NDF, so forage-to-concentrate ratio was 53:47 for AL and 48:52 for OG. Digestibility of NDF was lower for AL in the rumen and whole tract compared with OG, and milk fat concentration tended to be greater for OG than for AL. Mean 3.5% fat-corrected milk yield and DMI were not different between AL and OG. Response of DMI to forage family depended on pVDMI, as indicated by a significant interaction between treatment and pVDMI in predicting DMI. As pVDMI increased, DMI increased when cows were fed AL but not when they were fed OG. That is, as appetite increased, intake was more restricted for the more physically filling OG than for the less physically filling AL. This more positive DMI response to AL over OG among high-pVDMI cows is corroborated by interactions between treatments and pVDMI for both ruminal NDF turnover rate and indigestible NDF passage rate response. Therefore, the effects of alfalfa and orchardgrass forages on intake and fiber digestion depended on the extent to which fill limited feed intake of an individual cow.

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