Efficiency and rumen responses in younger and older Holstein heifers limit-fed diets of differing energy density

G. I. Zanton, A. J. Heinrichs

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14 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of limit feeding diets of different predicted energy density on the efficiency of utilization of feed and nitrogen and rumen responses in younger and older Holstein heifers. Eight rumen-cannulated Holstein heifers (4 heifers beginning at 257 ± 7 d, hereafter "young," and 4 heifers beginning at 610 ± 16 d, hereafter "old") were limit-fed high [HED; 2.64 Mcal/kg of dry matter (DM), 15.31% crude protein (CP)] or low (LED; 2.42 Mcal/kg of DM, 14.15% CP) energy density diets according to a 4-period, split-plot Latin square design with 28-d periods. Diets were limit-fed to provide isonitrogenous and isoenergetic intake on a rumen empty body weight (BW) basis at a level predicted to support approximately 800 g/d of average daily gain. During the last 7 d of each period, rumen contents were subsampled over a 24-h period, rumen contents were completely evacuated, and total collection of feces and urine was made over 4 d. Intakes of DM and water were greater for heifers fed LED, although, by design, calculated intake of metabolizable energy did not differ between age groups or diets when expressed relative to rumen empty BW. Rumen pH was lower, ammonia (NH3-N) concentration tended to be higher, and volatile fatty acids (VFA) concentration was not different for HED compared with LED and was unaffected by age group. Rumen content mass was greater for heifers fed LED and for old heifers, so when expressing rumen fermentation responses corrected for this difference in pool size, NH3-N pool size was not different between diets and total moles of VFA in the rumen were greater for heifers fed LED, whereas these pool sizes were greater for old heifers. Total-tract digestibility of potentially digestible neutral detergent fiber (NDF) was greater in heifers fed LED and for young heifers, whereas the fractional rate of ruminal passage and digestion of NDF were both greater in heifers fed LED. Digestibility of N was greater for heifers fed HED, but was unaffected by age group, whereas the efficiency of N retention was greater for heifers fed HED and for young heifers. Manure output was reduced in heifers fed HED, but the effect was largest in old heifers. Results confirm previous studies in which young heifers utilize N more efficiently than old heifers, primarily through greater efficiency of postabsorptive metabolism. Results also support the concept of limit feeding HED diets as a potential means to reduce manure excretion and increase nitrogen efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2825-2836
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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