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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #327566

Title: Effects of feeding alfalfa stemlage or wheat straw for dietary energy dilution on growth performance and sorting behaviors of holstein dairy heifers

item SU, HUAWEI - University Of Wisconsin
item ESSER, NANCY - University Of Wisconsin
item Coblentz, Wayne
item Kalscheur, Kenneth
item Hatfield, Ronald
item AKINS, MATTHEW - University Of Wisconsin

Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/24/2016
Publication Date: 7/19/2016
Citation: Su, H., Esser, N.M., Coblentz, W.K., Kalscheur, K., Hatfield, R.D., Akins, M.S. 2016. Effects of feeding alfalfa stemlage or wheat straw for dietary energy dilution on growth performance and sorting behaviors of holstein dairy heifers. Journal of Dairy Science. ADSA/ASAS Joint Meeting, July 19-23, 2016. Salt Lake City, UT.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Feeding high-quality forage diets may lead to excessive weight gains and over-conditioning for pregnant Holstein heifers. Restriction of energy density and dry matter intake (DMI) by heifers by using low-energy forages, such as straw, is a good approach for controlling this problem. Alfalfa stems containing high fiber and moderate protein content have the potential to be used to replace straw to reduce dietary energy. The objective of this study was to compare the growth performance and sorting behavior of dairy heifers offered an alfalfa silage/corn silage diet (CON; 13.1% CP, 67.4% TDN, 39.7% NDF) with two energy-diluted diets replacing the corn silage and alfalfa silage with either alfalfa stemlage (STM; 12.6% CP, 60.1% TDN, 46.4% NDF) or wheat straw (STW; 12.6% CP, 62.7% TDN, 43.7% NDF) to get similar diet composition. Seventy-two pregnant Holstein heifers (16.8 ± 1.3 months) were stratified (24 heifers/block) by initial body weight (light, 440 ± 18.0 kg; medium, 486 ± 18.6 kg; heavy, 534 ± 25.1 kg), and then assigned to 1 of 9 identical pens (3 pens/block; 8 heifers/pen), where each of the 3 diets were randomly assigned to 1 pen within each block. Diets were offered in a 56-d feeding trial. Statistical analyses were performed using a MIXED procedure in SAS 9.3 with pen as the experimental unit. Daily DMI was greater for CON than for diluted diets (11.3 vs. 10.3 kg/d; P = 0.01), with no differences observed between STM and STW (P = 0.61). Average daily gains were greater for heifers offered the CON diet compared with diluted diets (1.32 vs. 1.00 kg/d; P = 0.02). The feed:gain ratio tended to be less for heifers offered the CON diet relative to diluted diets (8.6 vs. 10.7; P = 0.08). There were no differences detected across all growth measures within the diluted diets (P > 0.05). Physically effective fiber (pef) particle content was relatively static across sampling times for CON (overall sorting factor mean = 1.02), which indicates minimal sorting. Sorting against pef particles was observed for diluted diets and much more severely for the STM diet (overall sorting factor mean = 1.14 vs. 1.06; P < 0.05). These results indicate that diets diluted with low-energy forages (both STM and STW) were effective in reducing intakes of DM and energy, and maintaining appropriate weight gains and body condition for pregnant Holstein heifers.