Double cropping and increasing crop diversity could improve dairy farm economic and environmental sustainability. In this experiment, corn silage was partially replaced with 2 alternative forages, brown midrib-6 brachytic dwarf forage sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) or fall-grown oat (Avena sativa) silage, in the diet of lactating dairy cows. We investigated the effect on dry matter (DM) intake, milk yield (MY), milk components and fatty acid profile, apparent total-tract nutrient digestibility, N utilization, enteric methane emissions, and income over feed cost. We analyzed the in situ DM and neutral detergent fiber disappearance of the alternative forages versus corn silage and alfalfa haylage. Sorghum was grown in the summer and harvested in the milk stage. Oats were grown in the fall and harvested in the boot stage. Compared with corn silage, neutral detergent fiber and acid detergent fiber concentrations were higher in the alternative forages. Lignin content was highest for sorghum silage and similar for corn silage and oat silage. The alternative forages had less than 1% starch compared with the approximately 35% starch in the corn silage. Ruminal in situ DM effective degradability was similar, although statistically different, for corn silage and oat silage, but lower for sorghum silage. Diets with the alternative forages were fed in a replicated 3 × 3 Latin square design experiment with three 28-d periods and 12 Holstein cows. The control diet contained 44% (DM basis) corn silage. In the other 2 diets, sorghum or oat silages were included at 10% of dietary DM, replacing corn silage. Sorghum silage inclusion decreased DM intake, MY, and milk protein content but increased milk fat and maintained energy-corrected MY similar to the control. Oat silage had no effect on DM intake, MY, or milk components compared to the control. The oat silage diet increased apparent total-tract digestibility of dietary nutrients, except starch, whereas the sorghum diet slightly decreased DM, organic matter, crude protein, and starch digestibility. Cows consuming the oat silage diet had higher milk urea N and urinary urea N concentrations. Milk N efficiency was decreased by the sorghum diet. Diet did not affect enteric methane or carbon dioxide emissions. This study shows that oat silage can partially replace corn silage at 10% of the diet DM with no effect on MY. Brown midrib sorghum silage harvested at the milk stage with <1% starch may decrease DM intake and MY in dairy cows.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Animal Science and Zoology