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J Dairy Sci. 1997 Jul;80(7):1438-46.

Interactions among forages and nonforage fiber sources.

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Department of Animal Science, University of Nebraska, Lincoin 68583-0908, USA.


Source, amount, and physical characteristics of dietary forage can interact with nonforage fiber sources and influence ruminal and total tract fiber digestion, passage, and performance of dairy cows fed diets containing substantial nonforage fiber in place of forage. Dietary NDF from forage can be reduced to < = 60% and still provide sufficient amounts of effective fiber for FCM production that is similar to or superior to that with high forage diets. Because of small particle size and high specific gravity, increased ruminal rate of passage may be responsible for lower ruminal NDF digestibility of nonforage fiber sources fed at high dietary amounts. As the amount of soybean hulls increased from 50 to 95% of a pelleted mix for dairy cows, passage rate increased by 8%. In five studies, the digestion of soybean hull diets was improved by the addition of coarse forage. Fiber digestibility might have improved because coarse hay increased ruminal retention time of nonforage fiber sources and allowed more complete digestion. Addition of coarsely chopped alfalfa hay to diets based on silage containing 25% soybean hulls increased ruminal mat consistency by 49% and tended to slow the ruminal escape rate of soybean hulls by 16%. When high percentage of nonforage fiber are fed, the amount of dietary forage is necessarily low, and forage particle size should be adequate to stimulate rumination and entrap small feed particles. The amount and particle size of forage in the diet interacts with the substituted nonforage fiber source to determine the net impact on the rate of ruminal digestion and passage of nonforage fiber.

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