Afternoon harvest increases readily fermentable carbohydrate concentration and voluntary intake of gamagrass and switchgrass baleage by beef steers.J Anim Sci 2007; 85(1):276-84JA
Our objective was to determine if harvest in the morning (AM, 0600) vs. the afternoon (PM, 1800) affects composition and voluntary DMI of gamagrass (GG) or switchgrass (SG) stored as baleage. Iuka GG (Tripsacum dactyloides L.) and Alamo SG (Panicum virgatum L.) were cut with a mower-conditioner, immediately round-baled, wrapped in plastic, and stored as baleage. Beef steers (255 +/- 7 kg of BW) were assigned (5 steers/treatment) to GG/AM, GG/PM, SG/AM, or SG/PM. Ad libitum intake was measured for 21 d (7-d adjustment and 14-d intake estimate) followed by 7-d adjustment and 5-d digestion and N balance study. Chewing behavior was recorded during the balance study. Compared with AM, PM had more (P < 0.01) starch (9.3 vs. 4.7 g/kg of DM), total nonstructural carbohydrate (30.4 vs. 19.0 g/kg of DM), and monosaccharides (17.1 vs. 11.2 g/kg of DM). Compared with AM, PM had less (P = 0.05) acetate (13.0 vs. 18.6 g/kg of DM) and propionate (0.29 vs. 0.82 g/kg of DM) and tended (P < 0.13) to have less lactate (2.9 vs. 3.5 g/kg of DM) and butyrate (3.9 vs. 5.1 g/kg of DM). Compared with SG, GG had more (P = 0.01) DM (324 vs. 242 g/kg of baleage), CP (114 vs. 97 g/kg of DM), lactate (4.8 vs. 1.6 g/kg of DM), starch (9.4 vs. 4.7 g/kg of DM), total nonstructural carbohydrate (34.2 vs. 15.2 g/kg of DM), and monosaccharides (20.8 vs. 7.4 g/kg of DM). However, GG had a lower (P = 0.01) pH (5.32 vs.5.79) and less (P < 0.01) ethanol (18.7 vs. 27.3 g/kg of DM), acetate (12.3 vs. 19.2 g/kg of DM), propionate (0.00 vs. 1.11 g/kg of DM), and butyrate (0.6 vs. 8.4 g/kg of DM). Daily DMI (2.16 vs. 1.83% of BW) and digestible DMI (1.15 vs. 0.95% of BW) were greater (P = 0.03) for PM than AM. Plasma urea N concentrations at the end of the ad libitum intake phase were greater (P = 0.01) for AM (3.91 mM) than for PM (2.31 mM) and greater (P = 0.07) for GG (3.51 mM) than for SG (2.71 mM). Steers fed PM spent more time eating (P = 0.04) and less time resting (P = 0.01) during meals than steers fed AM. Apparent digestibility of DM and fiber components was not affected (P < 0.18) by treatment. Apparent digestibility and retention of N decreased from PM to AM for SG, but increased for GG (P = 0.05). Retention of N as a percentage of N intake or N digested decreased more from PM to AM for SG than for GG (P < 0.05). We conclude that increased nonstructural carbohydrate content of the PM harvest of these grasses stored as baleage caused increased voluntary intake and improved use of dietary N by beef steers.