Traditionally, high-forage, low-concentrate diets fed ad libitum have been the primary system of feeding dairy heifers. However, high-concentrate diets can be fed at restricted intakes to reach desired rates of gain and increase nutrient efficiency. A total mixed ration containing high corn silage (CS; HCS: 77% CS, 23% concentrate) or low CS (LCS: 67% concentrate, 33% CS) was fed at restricted intakes in 2 trials to evaluate nutrient utilization by growing heifers. In the first trial, 4 ruminally cannulated heifers (298 ±16 kg of body weight) were fed to study differences in rumen pH, volatile fatty acid and ammonia concentrations, and mass of rumen contents. In situ determinations were made on the total mixed ration and CS. Low CS rations were digested more rapidly in situ when compared with HCS (4.5 vs. 2.3 ±0.3%/h), and no differences were observed in CS digestibility when incubated in the rumen of heifers fed either ration. Mean rumen pH tended to be lower for LCS than for HCS (5.9 vs. 6.2 ± 0.1). Individual and total rumen volatile fatty acid concentrations and rumen ammonia concentration were not different between treatments. Total mass of rumen contents was lower for LCS. In the second trial, four 6-mo-old heifers (172 ± 14 kg of body weight) and four 12-mo-old heifers (337 ± 10 kg of body weight) were used. Digestibility of dry matter was greater for the LCS than the HCS diet in both age groups (76.3 vs. 71.1% for 12-mo-old heifers; 71.4 vs. 68.9% for 6-mo-old heifers). Apparent digestibility of N was not different between treatments; however, retained N was higher for the LCS diets for both age groups. Fecal output was significantly reduced in the LCS diets for both age groups. Feeding low-forage, high-concentrate diets to growing dairy heifers at restricted intakes, although more highly digestible, resuited in few significant differences in rumen fermentation patterns and lower fecal output.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology