Corn silage partially replacing short alfalfa hay to optimize forage use in total mixed rations for lactating cows.J Dairy Sci. 2008 Dec; 91(12):4755-64.JD
We theorized that adding corn silage to a total mixed ration with alfalfa hay as the sole dietary forage would improve nutrient intake and chewing activity and thereby improve rumen fermentation and milk production. The objective of this research was to determine the effects of partial replacement of short alfalfa [physically effective (pe) neutral detergent fiber (NDF) >1.18 mm (peNDF(>1.18)) = 33.2%] with corn silage (CS, peNDF(>1.18) = 51.9%) in yellow grease-supplemented total mixed rations on feed intake, chewing behavior, rumen fermentation, and lactation performance by dairy cows. Four multiparous (138 +/- 3 d in milk) and 4 primiparous (115 +/- 10 d in milk) Holstein cows were used in a 4 x 4 Latin square design experiment with four 21-d periods. Each period had 14 d of adaptation and 7 d of sampling, and parity was the square. Treatments were diets [dry matter (DM) basis] with 1) 40% alfalfa hay (ALF), 2) 24% alfalfa hay + 16% CS (CS40), 3) 20% alfalfa hay + 20% CS (CS50), and 4) 16% alfalfa hay + 24% CS (CS60). Diets had a forage-to-concentrate ratio of 40:60 on a DM basis. Cows had greater intake of DM and thus greater intakes of net energy for lactation, NDF, and peNDF when CS partially replaced alfalfa hay. Replacing alfalfa hay with CS increased daily eating and chewing times in all cows, and increased rumen pH at 4 h postfeeding in multiparous cows. Apparent total-tract digestibility coefficients for crude protein (CP) and NDF were not different among cows fed ALF, CS40, and CS50, but were lower for CS60 than for ALF. Energy-corrected milk yield was greater for CS40 and CS60 than for ALF. Milk protein yield was increased when CS replaced 40, 50, and 60% of alfalfa hay. Milk lactose was greater only for CS60, but milk lactose yield was greater for CS50 and CS60 than for ALF. Milk percentage and yield of fat did not differ among treatments. Therefore, CS partially replacing short alfalfa hay increased DM intake, consequently increased net energy for lactation and physically effective fiber intakes, and thus, improved milk and milk protein and lactose yields.