Effect of varying total mixed ration particle size on rumen digesta and fecal particle size and digestibility in lactating dairy cows

D. D. Maulfair, M. Fustini, A. J. Heinrichs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


The objective of this experiment was to evaluate the effects of feeding rations of different particle sizes on rumen digesta and fecal matter particle size. Four rumen-cannulated, multiparous, Holstein cows (104 ± 15 d in milk) were randomly assigned to treatments in a 4 × 4 Latin square design. The diets consisted of 29.4% corn silage, 22.9% ground corn, 17.6% alfalfa haylage, and 11.8% dry grass hay [20% of forage dry matter (DM)] on a DM basis. Dry grass hay was chopped to 4 different lengths to vary the total mixed ration (TMR) particle size. Geometric mean particle sizes of the rations were 4.46, 5.10, 5.32, and 5.84. mm for short, medium, long, and extra long diets, respectively. The ration affected rumen digesta particle size for particles ≥3.35. mm, and had no effect on distribution of particles <3.35. mm. All rumen digesta particle size fractions varied by time after feeding, with soluble particle fractions increasing immediately after feeding and 0.15, 0.6, and 1.18-mm particle size fractions decreasing slightly after feeding. Particle fractions >1.18. mm. had ration by time interactions. Fecal neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and indigestible NDF concentrations decreased with increasing TMR particle size. Fecal particle size expressed as total geometric mean particle length followed this same tendency. Fecal particle size, expressed as retained geometric mean particle length, averaged 1.13. mm with more than 36% of particles being larger than 1.18. mm. All fecal nutrient concentrations measured were significantly affected by time after feeding, with NDF and indigestible NDF increasing after feeding and peaking at about 12. h later and then decreasing to preprandial levels. Starch concentrations were determined to have the opposite effect. Additionally, apparent digestibility of diet nutrients was analyzed and DM digestibility tended to decrease with increasing TMR particle size, whereas other nutrient digestibilities were not different among rations. These results show that the critical size for increased resistance to rumen escape is larger than 1.18. mm and this critical size is constant throughout the day. This study also concludes that, when using average quality grass hay to provide the range of particle sizes fed, DM digestibility tends to decrease with increasing ration particle size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3527-3536
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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