Effects of physical form and stage of maturity at harvest of whole-crop barley silage on intake, chewing activity, diet selection and faecal particle size of dairy steers

Rustas, B-O.; Nørgaard, P.; Jalali, A.R.; Nadeau, E.

Animal an international journal of animal bioscience 4(1): 67-75


ISSN/ISBN: 1751-7311
PMID: 22443619
DOI: 10.1017/s1751731109990887
Accession: 034826709

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This study examined the effects of physical form and stage of maturity at harvest of whole-crop barley silage (WCBS) on feed intake, eating and rumination activity, diet selection and faecal particle size in dairy steers. Whole-crop barley was harvested and ensiled in round bales. Eight dairy steers (live weight (LW): 350 ± 10 kg) in a duplicated 4 × 4 Latin square design were fed WCBS harvested at heading or dough stage of maturity in long form or chopped in a 2 × 2 factorial treatment arrangement. The WCBS was supplemented with soybean meal. Daily dry matter (DM) intake increased by 7% (P < 0.05) due to chopping of dough-stage silage but was unaffected by chopping of heading-stage silage. The steers fed chopped, but not those fed long dough-stage silage, selected for starch in the WCBS (P < 0.001). The neutral detergent fibre (NDF) intake was 5% higher (P < 0.01) for heading than for dough-stage silage and was associated with lower concentration of indigestible NDF (96 v. 170 g/kg DM). Rate of intake of DM and NDF was 37% higher (P < 0.001), daily eating time was 24% shorter (P < 0.001) and daily chewing time was 8% shorter (P < 0.05) for chopped silage compared with long silage but there was no effect of maturity. Daily rumination time was not affected by treatments, whereas rumination and chewing times per kg NDF intake were 15% and 13% higher (P < 0.05), respectively, for dough-stage than for heading-stage silage. The proportion of faecal particles retained on a 1 mm screen was 30% higher (P < 0.001) due to chopping and 45% higher (P < 0.001) due to delayed harvest. Chopping the dough-stage silage reduced the proportion of grain in faeces from 97 to 43 g/kg DM (P < 0.05) indicating higher starch digestibility. In conclusion, chopping increased DM intake of WCBS when harvested at dough stage but not at heading stage of maturity.