Effect of barley and its amylopectin content on ruminal fermentation and nitrogen utilization in lactating dairy cows

A. E. Foley, A. N. Hristov, A. Melgar, J. K. Ropp, R. P. Etter, S. Zaman, C. W. Hunt, K. Huber, W. J. Price

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39 Scopus citations


The effect of type of grain (corn vs. barley) and amylopectin content of barley grain (normal vs. waxy) on ruminal fermentation, digestibility, and utilization of ruminal ammonia nitrogen for milk protein synthesis was studied in a replicated 3 x 3 Latin square design trial with 6 lactating dairy cows. The experimental treatments were (proportion of dietary dry matter): CORN, 40% corn grain, NBAR, 30% normal Baronesse barley: 10% corn grain, and WBAR, 30% high-amylopectin (waxy) Baronesse barley:10% corn grain. All grains were steam-rolled and fed as part of a total mixed ration. The NBAR and WBAR diets resulted in increased ruminal ammonia concentrations compared with CORN (8.2, 7.4, and 5.6 mM, respectively), but other ruminal fermentation parameters were not affected. Ruminal digestibility of dietary nutrients and microbial protein synthesis in the rumen were also not affected by diet. Corn grain had greater in situ effective ruminal dry matter degradability (62.8%) than the barley grains (58.2 and 50.7%, respectively), and degradability of the normal barley starch was greater than that of the waxy barley (69.3 and 58.9%, respectively). A greater percentage of relative starch crystallinity was observed for the waxy compared with the normal barley grain. Total tract apparent digestibility of dry matter and organic matter were decreased by WBAR compared with CORN and NBAR. Total tract starch digestibility was greater and milk urea nitrogen content was lower for CORN compared with the 2 barley diets. In this study, the extent of processing of the grain component of the diet was most likely the factor that determined the diet responses. Minimal processing of barley grain (processing indexes of 79.2 to 87.9%) reduced its total tract digestibility of starch compared with steam-rolled corn (processing index of 58.8%). As a result of the increased ammonia concentration and reduced degradability of barley dry matter in the rumen, the utilization of ruminal ammonia nitrogen for microbial protein synthesis was decreased with the barley diets compared with the corn-based diet. In this study, waxy Baronesse barley was less degradable in the rumen and the total digestive tract than its normal counterpart. The most likely reasons for these effects were the differences in starch characteristics and chemical composition, and perhaps the different response to processing between the 2 barleys.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4321-4335
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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