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J Anim Sci. 2014 Aug;92(8):3526-36. doi: 10.2527/jas.2013-7224. Epub 2014 Jul 8.

Feeding behavior and ruminal pH of corn silage, barley grain, and corn dried distillers' grain offered in a total mixed ration or in a free-choice diet to beef cattle.

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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Centre, Lethbridge, AB, Canada.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Centre, Lethbridge, AB, Canada


Seventy-nine continental crossbred beef heifers (524.4 ± 41.68 kg BW), 16 of which were ruminally cannulated, were used in a 53-d experiment with a generalized randomized block design to assess the effects of barley grain (BG), corn silage (CS), and corn distillers' grain (DG) offered in a free-choice diet on feeding behavior and ruminal fermentation. Treatments were total mixed ration (TMR) consisting of 85% BG, 10% CS, and 5% supplement or free-choice (i.e., self-selection) diets of BG and CS (BGCS), BG and corn dry DG (BGDG), or CS and corn DG (CSDG). Heifers were housed in groups of 9 or 10 in 8 pens and weighed 2 h before feed delivery at d 0, 21, 42, and 52 of the study. Pens were equipped with an electronic feed bunk monitoring system enabling feed intake and feeding behavior to be continuously monitored. Each of these pens was randomly allocated 2 cannulated heifers equipped with indwelling pH probes for continuous measurement of ruminal pH during wk 1, 2, 4, and 7. Blood and rumen contents were taken from cannulated heifers 2 h after feed delivery on d -3, 0, 7, 8, 42, and 49. Cattle fed either TMR or free-choice diets had similar (P > 0.10) ruminal fermentation, blood profile, and growth performance, with the exception of the CSDG diet, for which ruminal pH levels were consistently greater (P < 0.01) and performance was lower (P < 0.01). When DG was a component in free-choice diets, heifers reduced its inclusion in the diet (P < 0.05) over the experiment without affecting growth rate or ruminal fluid pH. Finishing feedlot cattle fed BG and CS separately selected a diet with a greater proportion of BG (85% DMI) compared to the TMR with no signs of acidosis. When cattle were given free-choice access to corn dry DG as an alternative to CS, they consumed levels up to 30% of their total daily DMI. Under the conditions of our experiment cattle can effectively self-select diets without increasing the risk of subclinical acidosis and still maintain similar levels of growth and feed efficiency compared with a TMR.


acidosis; beef cattle; feeding behavior; free-choice diets

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