Effects of varying forage particle size and fermentable carbohydrates on feed sorting, ruminal fermentation, and milk and component yields of dairy cows

D. D. Maulfair, A. J. Heinrichs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Ration sorting is thought to affect ruminal fermentation in such a manner that milk yield milk and components are often decreased. However, the influence of ruminally degradable starch on ration sorting has not been studied. Therefore, the objective of this experiment was to evaluate the interactions between forage particle size (FPS) and ruminally fermentable carbohydrates (RFC) for dry matter intake (DMI), ration sorting, ruminal fermentation, chewing activity, and milk yield and components. In this study, 12 (8 ruminally cannulated) multiparous, lactating Holstein cows were fed a total mixed ration that varied in FPS and RFC. Two lengths of corn silage were used to alter FPS and 2 grind sizes of corn grain were used to alter RFC. It was determined that increasing RFC increased ruminating time and did not affect eating time, whereas increasing FPS increased eating time and did not affect ruminating time. Ruminal fermentation did not differ by altering either FPS or RFC. However, increasing FPS tended to increase mean and maximum ruminal pH and increasing RFC tended to decrease minimum ruminal pH. Particle size distribution became more diverse and neutral detergent fiber content of refusals increased over time, whereas starch content decreased, indicating that cows were sorting against physically effective neutral detergent fiber and for RFC. Selection indices determined that virtually no interactions occurred between FPS and RFC and that despite significant sorting throughout the day, by 24. h after feeding cows had consumed a ration very similar to what was offered. This theory was reinforced by particle fraction intakes that very closely resembled the proportions of particle fractions in the offered total mixed ration. An interaction between FPS and RFC was observed for DMI, as DMI decreased with increasing FPS when the diet included low RFC and did not change when the diet included high RFC. Dry matter intake increased with RFC for long diets and did not change with RFC on short diets. Increasing RFC was found to increase milk yield, milk protein content and yield, and lactose content and yield but decrease milk fat content. Increasing FPS did not have as great an effect on milk production as RFC. This study found no significant interaction between FPS and RFC for ration sorting, although an interaction between FPS and RFC for DMI was observed. Neither FPS nor RFC affected ruminal fermentation, whereas RFC had a greater influence on milk yield and components than FPS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3085-3097
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of varying forage particle size and fermentable carbohydrates on feed sorting, ruminal fermentation, and milk and component yields of dairy cows'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this