Feeding fodder beet (Beta vulgaris L.) with either barley straw or pasture silage to non-lactating dairy cows

Feeding fodder beet (Beta vulgaris L.) with either barley straw or pasture silage to non-lactating dairy cows
Peer reviewed

Abstract

AIMS: To determine the suitability of diets containing either approximately 85% fodder beet (Beta vulgaris L.) with barley straw or 65% fodder beet with pasture silage when fed to non-lactating dairy cows, by measuring intakes, digestibility, rumen function including microbial growth, and N excretion.

METHODS: Holstein-Friesian cows fitted with permanent rumen fistulae were fed either 65% fodder beet with pasture silage (Silage; n=8) or 85% fodder beet with barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) straw (Straw; n=8) in an indoor facility over a 9-day period, for measurement of intakes, digestibility, rumen function and urine production. The cows were adapted to the diets over 2 weeks before the indoor measurements. Feed was available for about 6 hours/day, as practiced commercially for wintering non-lactating cows.

RESULTS: Five cows fed the Straw diet had to be removed from the trial because of acute acidosis; four on Day 1 of the measurement period and one on Day 7. One cow allocated to the Silage diet refused to eat fodder beet bulbs and was also removed from the trial. Two cows fed the Silage diet were also treated for acidosis. DM intakes were lower with the Straw than Silage diets (6.4 (SE 0.4) vs. 8.3 (SE 0.5) kg/day) and organic matter (OM) digestibility was lower with the Straw than Silage diets (77 (SE 1) vs. 83 (SE 1) g/100g). The N content of the two diets was 1.14 and 1.75 g/100 g DM and there was a net loss of N by cows fed the Straw diet (−22.7 (SE 7) g/day). Rumen microbial N production was much lower in cows fed the Straw than the Silage diet (6.6 (SE 1.3) vs. 15.8 (SE 0.7) g microbial N/kg digestible OM intake). Concentrations of ammonia in rumen liquid collected on Days 5–6 were below detection limits (<0.1 mmol/L) in 36/48 (75%) samples collected from cows fed the Straw diet and in 27/48 (56%) cows fed the Silage diet. Mean urinary N excretion was lower in cows fed the Straw than the Silage diet (52.0 (SE 5.8) vs. 87.7 (SE 5.9) g/day).

CONCLUSION AND CLINICAL RELEVENCE: An over-wintering diet for dry cows comprising about 65% fodder beet with 35% pasture silage provided adequate nutrition, although there was some risk of acidosis. In contrast, the diet containing about 85% fodder beet with barley straw resulted in lower DM intakes, poor rumen function, negative N balance so that both nutrition and welfare were compromised.


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