Effects of Alfalfa and Orchardgrass on Digestion by Dairy Cows

L. A. Holden, B. P. Glenn, R. A. Erdman, W. E. Potts

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18 Scopus citations


The effects of alfalfa and orchardgrass diets of similar NDF content on ruminal digestion and digesta kinetics as measured using radiolabeled herbage were evaluated in Holstein cows. Two dry and two lactating cows, fitted with ruminal and duodenal cannulas, were fed 12 times daily at restricted and ad libitum intakes, respectively, in a crossover design. Diets were 65:35 and 55:45 hay: concentrate in DM for alfalfa and orchardgrass, respectively, with approximately 19% CP and 42% NDF. The DMI by lactating cows was greater for the alfalfa diet than for the orchardgrass diet. Ruminal and apparent total tract digestibilities of NDF and ADF were less for cows consuming the alfalfa diet than for those on the orchardgrass diet. Particle size of ruminal digesta, based on specific activity from a ruminal pulse-dose of 14C-labeled alfalfa orchardgrass, did not decrease consistently with time and was greater than fecal particle size, suggesting selective retention of large digesta particles before passage. Ruminal and total tract fractional passage rates of indigestible NDF, based on 14C-labeled forage, did not differ as a result of forage or lactation stage, but NDF gut fill was greater in lactating than in dry cows, indicating that changes in gut fill were related more to differences in intake than to passage rate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2580-2594
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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