Inclusion of brown midrib dwarf pearl millet silage in the diet of lactating dairy cows

M. T. Harper, A. Melgar, J. Oh, K. Nedelkov, G. Sanchez, G. W. Roth, A. N. Hristov

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12 Scopus citations


Brown midrib brachytic dwarf pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) forage harvested at the flag leaf visible stage and subsequently ensiled was investigated as a partial replacement of corn silage in the diet of high-producing dairy cows. Seventeen lactating Holstein cows were fed 2 diets in a crossover design experiment with 2 periods of 28 d each. Both diets had forage:concentrate ratios of 60:40. The control diet (CSD) was based on corn silage and alfalfa haylage, and in the treatment diet, 20% of the corn silage dry matter (corresponding to 10% of the dietary dry matter) was replaced with pearl millet silage (PMD). The effects of partial substitution of corn silage with pearl millet silage on dry matter intake, milk yield, milk components, fatty acid profile, apparent total-tract digestibility of nutrients, N utilization, and enteric methane emissions were analyzed. The pearl millet silage was higher in crude protein and neutral detergent fiber and lower in lignin and starch than the corn silage. Diet did not affect dry matter intake or energy-corrected milk yield, which averaged 46.7 ± 1.92 kg/d. The PMD treatment tended to increase milk fat concentration, had no effect on milk fat yield, and increased milk urea N. Concentrations and yields of milk protein and lactose were not affected by diet. Apparent total-tract digestibility of dry matter decreased from 66.5% in CSD to 64.5% in PMD. Similarly, organic matter and crude protein digestibility was decreased by PMD, whereas neutral- and acid-detergent fiber digestibility was increased. Total milk trans fatty acid concentration was decreased by PMD, with a particular decrease in trans-10 18:1. Urinary urea and fecal N excretion increased with PMD compared with CSD. Milk N efficiency decreased with PMD. Carbon dioxide emission was not different between the diets, but PMD increased enteric methane emission from 396 to 454 g/d and increased methane yield and intensity. Substituting corn silage with brown midrib dwarf pearl millet silage at 10% of the diet dry matter supported high milk production in dairy cows. When planning on farm forage production strategies, brown midrib dwarf pearl millet should be considered as a viable fiber source.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5006-5019
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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