Nutrient demand interacts with legume particle length to affect digestion responses and rumen pool sizes in dairy cows.J Dairy Sci. 2012 May; 95(5):2616-31.JD
Effects of legume particle length on dry matter intake (DMI), milk production, ruminal fermentation and pool sizes, and digestion and passage kinetics, and the relationship of these effects with preliminary DMI (pDMI) were evaluated using 13 ruminally and duodenally cannulated Holstein cows in a crossover design with a 14-d preliminary period and two 19-d treatment periods. During the preliminary period, pDMI of individual cows ranged from 22.8 to 32.4 kg/d (mean=26.5 kg/d) and 3.5% fat-corrected milk yield ranged from 22.9 to 62.4 kg/d (mean=35.1 kg/d). Experimental treatments were diets containing alfalfa silage chopped to (1) 19 mm (long cut, LC) or (2) 10 mm (short cut, SC) theoretical length of cut as the sole forage. Alfalfa silages contained approximately 43% neutral detergent fiber (NDF); diets contained approximately 47% forage and 20% forage NDF. Preliminary DMI, an index of nutrient demand, was determined during the last 4 d of the preliminary period, when cows were fed a common diet, and used as a covariate. Main effects of legume particle length and their interaction with pDMI were tested by ANOVA. Alfalfa particle length and its interaction with pDMI did not affect milk yield or rumen pH. The LC diet decreased milk fat concentration more per kilogram of pDMI increase than the SC diet and increased yields of milk fat and fat-corrected milk less per kilogram of pDMI increase than the SC diet, resulting in a greater benefit for LC at low pDMI and for SC at high pDMI. The LC diet tended to decrease DMI compared with the SC diet. Ruminal digestion and passage rates of feed fractions did not differ between LC and SC and were not related to level of intake. The LC diet tended to decrease the rate of ruminal turnover for NDF but increased NDF rumen pools at a slower rate than the SC diet as pDMI increased. This indicated that the faster NDF turnover rate did not counterbalance the higher DMI for SC, resulting in larger NDF rumen pools for SC than LC. As pDMI increased, LC increased ruminal digestibility of potentially digestible NDF and total NDF, and SC decreased them, but total-tract digestibilities of potentially digestible NDF, total NDF, organic matter, and dry matter were lower for LC than for SC. Ruminal digestibilities of starch and organic matter interacted quadratically with level of intake. When legume silage was the only source of forage in the diet, increasing chop length from 10 to 19 mm tended to decrease DMI but did not negatively affect productivity of cows.