Effects of supplementation frequency on ruminal fermentation and digestion by steers fed medium-quality hay and supplemented with a soybean hull and corn gluten feed blend.J Anim Sci 2012; 90(3):881-91JA
Reducing the frequency of supplementation to beef cattle would reduce labor and vehicle maintenance costs and could have the potential to increase profits if performance is not negatively affected. Six ruminally cannulated beef steers (362 ± 18 kg of BW) were used in a replicated 3 × 3 Latin square design to determine the effect of supplementation frequency (daily or on alternate days) on digestion and ruminal parameters when feeding medium-quality hay and supplementing with a mixture of soybean hulls and corn gluten feed. Dietary treatments consisted of ad libitum fescue hay (8.8% CP and 34.8% ADF) that was supplemented at 1% of BW daily (SD), supplemented at 2% of BW on alternate days (SA), or not supplemented (NS). The supplement (14.6% CP and 29.8% ADF) contained 47% soybean hull pellets, 47% corn gluten feed pellets, 2% feed grade limestone, and 4% molasses (as fed). Each period consisted of a 12-d adaptation phase followed by 6 d of total fecal, urine, and ort collection. All supplement offered was consumed within 2 h. Ruminal fluid was collected every 4 h for 2 d. Hay intake was reduced (P < 0.01) for SD and further reduced (P < 0.01) for SA. Hay intake was 1.54, 1.19, and 1.02% of BW (SEM ± 0.036) for NS, SD, and SA, respectively. There was a treatment (P < 0.01) × day interaction for mean ruminal pH. On the day of supplementation, ruminal pH for SA (6.13) was lower (P < 0.01) than those for both SD (6.29) and NS (6.52). However, on the day the SA treatment did not receive supplement, ruminal pH of SA (6.53) did not differ (P = 0.87) from ruminal pH of NS and was greater (P < 0.01) than that of SD. Ruminal pH of SD was lower (P < 0.01) than that of NS. Diet DM digestibility was increased (P < 0.01) by supplementation but did not differ (P = 0.58) because of frequency. Dry matter digestibility was 57.9, 64.1, and 64.6% (SEM ± 0.65) for NS, SD, and SA, respectively. The amount of N retained did not differ (P = 0.47) because of frequency (24.9 ± 5.61 and 22.0 ± 5.50 g/d for SD and SA, respectively) and was greater (P < 0.01) for the supplemented treatments than for NS (4.2 ± 3.30 g/d). When supplementing a blend of soybean hulls and corn gluten feed, producers can reduce the frequency of supplementation to every other day without reducing digestibility or N retention.