Rumen digestion and nutritional efficiency of dairy heifers limit-fed a high forage ration to four levels of dry matter intake

G. I. Zanton, A. J. Heinrichs

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35 Scopus citations


Eight rumen-cannulated Holstein dairy heifers [beginning body weight (BW) 340 (±5) kg and age 14.5 (±1) mo] were fed a high forage diet at 4 levels of intake. Diets were composed of grass silage, grass hay, and corn silage as the forage components and offered at 1.25, 1.50, 1.75, and 2.00% of BW to heifers in a replicated Latin square design. Diets were incubated in situ in heifers receiving all 4 levels of feed. Blood and rumen were sampled at 2-h intervals for 24 h, rumen contents were emptied, and total fecal and urine collection was made. Dietary intake increased in proportion to feed offered until dry matter intake (DMI) was 1.92% BW, after which a statistically determined plateau was evident due to greater refusals when feed was offered at 2.00% BW. In situ degradation of feed was not affected by intake level, which, combined with the greater turnover rate of rumen contents, leads to the inference that rate of passage was increased with increasing intake. Rumen pH decreased and rumen volatile fatty acid concentration and microbial protein flow to the small intestine (estimated using urinary purine derivative excretion) increased as intake increased. Manure excretion increased as DMI increased at a rate 2.54 times greater than increases in DMI; this increase was entirely due to greater excretion of wet feces because urine excretion did not change with intake level. Nitrogen digestibility decreased and N retention increased linearly as the level of feed offered increased. Efficiency of N retention was minimized when feed was offered at 1.25% BW; all levels of feed offered above this level resulted in equivalent efficiencies. From the results of this experiment it can be concluded that when dairy heifers are limit-fed a high forage diet, the efficiency of nutrient utilization is increased as intake decreases, but reducing DMI below 1.50% BW reduced efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3579-3588
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of dairy science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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