Submitted to: Feed Mix
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 1, 1996
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Feeding dairy cows poses a dilemma to farmers. Large amounts of grain must be fed for the cows to reach their genetic potential for milk production. But when high grain, low forage diets are fed animal health problems often occur that reduce milk production. The reason for these problems is that dairy cows require fiber in their diets to maintain proper stomach function, and forages are high in fiber content. Unfortunately forage crops generally provide insufficient calories for cows to produce large amounts of milk because the fiber fraction of forages is poorly digested. Our group has been determining the chemical characteristics of fiber that limit its digestibility by cattle. We have identified chemical cross linking of fiber components as the critical factor responsible for low fiber digestibility. This cross linking is analogous to the chemical cross linking in vulcanized rubber that gives tires their durability. Identification of the chemical structures of this cross linking now provides plant breeders and biotechnologists with targets for improving fiber digestibility. The end result will be improved forage crops that support higher levels of milk production without the health problems associated with high levels of grain feeding to dairy cows.