Sorghum silage has been shown to be a good alternative to corn silage for dairy cows; however, studies regarding heifers are insufficiently explored. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate effects of changing forage to concentrate ratio (FOR:CON) in diets based on sorghum silage on N digestibility, rumen fermentation, N balance, C excretion, and microbial N yield in limit-fed dairy heifers. A split-plot 4 × 4 Latin square design with 19-d periods (15 d of adaptation and 4 d of sampling) was conducted with 8 rumen cannulated dairy heifers (age 13.7 ± 0.6 mo and weight 364.8 ± 17.6 kg). Heifers were fed sorghum silage–based diets with 4 FOR:CON (85:15, 75:25, 65:35, and 55:45) balanced for similar metabolizable energy intake per unit of body weight and crude protein concentration. Diets were fed to allow 900 to 1,000 g/d body weight gain and were fed once daily. Total collection of feces and urine was completed on d 15 to 19 to determine N, C, urea N, allantoin, uric acid, and creatinine excretion. Rumen contents were sampled on d 19 at 0, 1.5, 3, 4.5, 6, 9, 13, 17, 21, and 23 h after feeding to measure pH, volatile fatty acid (VFA), ammonia-N, and free AA concentrations. The pH decreased linearly while ammonia-N and free AA levels increased linearly with decreasing FOR:CON of diets. Although mean total VFA did not differ among treatment diets, molar proportions of VFA did. Acetate proportion decreased while propionate and butyrate increased with decreasing FOR:CON. Intake of N and urea N excretion decreased with decreasing forage proportion in diets while total N excretion, apparent N digestibility, and N retention were not different. Intake of C and excretion in feces (g/d) decreased linearly with decreasing FOR:CON in diets. Creatinine, allantoin, and uric acid excretion were not affected by FOR:CON; however, microbial N yield tended to increase linearly with greater concentrate in diets. Heifers limit fed diets based on sorghum silage demonstrated the effect of available ammonia-N and readily fermentable carbohydrates with subsequent effects on nutrient utilization when different FOR:CON were applied. Based on the presented results, FOR:CON 65:35 had the most suitable balance of available ammonia-N and readily fermentable carbohydrates for the most optimal results.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology