Effects of alfalfa particle size and specific gravity on chewing activity, digestibility, and performance of Holstein dairy cows

Teimouri Yansari, A.; Valizadeh, R.; Naserian, A.; Christensen, D.A.; Yu, P.; Eftekhari Shahroodi, F.

Journal of Dairy Science 87(11): 3912-3924


ISSN/ISBN: 0022-0302
PMID: 15483175
DOI: 10.3168/jds.s0022-0302(04)73530-4
Accession: 004131315

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Two experiments were carried out to test the effects of alfalfa particle size and functional specific gravity (FSG) on chewing activity, digestibility, rumen kinetics, and production of lactating dairy cows fed corn silage based rations. In experiment 1, water-holding capacity (WHC), insoluble dry matter, hydration rate, and FSG changes were determined in alfalfa hay (varying in particle size) and corn silage. Reduction of particle size increased bulk density, FSG, and the rate of hydration, and decreased WHC of alfalfa. In experiment 2, 9 midlactation Holstein dairy cows fed total mixed rations containing 3 sizes of alfalfa hay (with geometric mean 7.83, 4.04, and 1.14 mm) were used in a replicated 3 x 3 Latin square design. The diets contained 20, 20, 35, 7, 7.5, 10, 0.3, 0.1, and 0.1% of DM alfalfa, corn silage, barley, soybean meal, beet pulp, wheat bran, dicalcium phosphate, vitamin premix, and salt, respectively. The geometric means (GM) of rations were 3.34, 2.47, and 1.66 mm in long, medium, and fine alfalfa treatments, respectively. Reduction of particle size increased daily NDF intake (kg), but decreased the proportion of physically effective factor (pef) and physically effective NDF (peNDF) in the ingested rations. Reduction of particle size increased the FSG of rations and intake of DM but reduced digestibility of NDF and ash. Reduction of particle size decreased ruminal mean retention time (RMRT), but increased the ruminal particulate passage rate. Milk and FCM yield were not affected by treatments. The rumen pH, total chewing activity, rumination, eating time, and milk fat were reduced as particle size decreased, but milk protein increased. This study showed that reduction of forage particle size increased bulk density, FSG, and hydration rate of alfalfa and was the most influential factor affecting DMI, milk composition, and chewing behavior. Reduction of forage particle size had minimal impact on digestibility and milk production.