Effects of varying dietary forage particle size in two concentrate levels on chewing activity, ruminal mat characteristics, and passage in dairy cows

Zebeli, Q.; Tafaj, M.; Weber, I.; Dijkstra, J.; Steingass, H.; Drochner, W.

Journal of Dairy Science 90(4): 1929-1942


ISSN/ISBN: 0022-0302
PMID: 17369233
DOI: 10.3168/jds.2006-354
Accession: 015649680

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The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of varying dietary forage particle size on chewing activity, ruminal mat characteristics, passage, and in situ ruminal and total tract digestion in dairy cows at a low- and high-concentrate inclusion. The experiment was designed as a 4 x 4 Latin square with a 2 x 2 factorial arrangement of treatments. Four ruminally cannulated late-lactating dairy cows were restrictively fed (17 kg of dry matter/d), in four 23-d periods, 1 of 4 different diets varying in the theoretical particle size (6 and 30 mm) of hay (56.6% NDF of dry matter) and in the levels (approximately 20 and 60%, dry matter basis) of a cereal-based concentrate. Ingredients of the ration were offered separately to the cows; dietary hay and low-level concentrate were offered twice daily at 0800 and 1600 h, whereas concentrate of the high-level treatment was offered in 4 meals a day at 0800, 1200, 1600, and 1900 h. This study showed that altering the forage particle size from 6 to 30 mm in a low- concentrate diet significantly increased the rumination time and ruminal mat consistency without affecting ruminal fermentation and passage. Further, particle breakdown and proportion of mat in the rumen increased, and in situ hay dry matter degradability improved, which in turn indicated a higher capacity of ruminal digesta to degrade fiber. On the other hand, increasing the forage particle size in a diet containing a high amount of concentrate increased the proportion of dry matter retained on a 1.18-mm screen from 37.5 to 42.0% and extended the rumination time by 100 min/d, as well as increasing the ruminal mat consistency. However, ruminal particle breakdown, short-term ruminal pH, fibrolytic capacity of the digesta, and proportion of mat in the rumen decreased. This was also reflected in a higher bailable liquid pool, increased fractional passage rate of solid digesta from the reticulorumen, and increased retention time in the hindgut, which in turn indicated a shift of fiber digestion from the rumen to the lower digestive tract. This study showed that the response of chewing or ruminating activity alone seemed to be insufficient to assess the dietary physical effectiveness or fiber adequacy in limit-fed dairy cows when high-concentrate diets were fed separately. Based on the results of this study, we concluded that inclusion of coarsely chopped hay in the high-concentrate diet did not appear to further improve rumen conditions and digestion when the rations were formulated to exceed the fiber requirements in limit-fed dairy cows.