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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2009

Effects of maturity stage and feeding strategy of whole crop barley silage on intake, digestibility and milk production in dairy cows

Wallsten, Johanna; Martinsson, Kjell


Five diets containing concentrate, grass silage and whole crop barley silage (WCBS) harvested at different maturity stages were fed to 15 multiparous dairy cows in an incomplete change-over design over three periods. Three diets contained 10.7 kg dry matter (DM) concentrate, 4 kg DM grass silage, and ad libitum access to WCBS harvested at either the heading stage (B1), the early milk stage (B2) or the early dough stage (B3) of maturity. The other two diets contained 10.7 kg DM concentrate, whereas grass silage and WCBS at heading were mixed at two different ratios with a DM content of WCBS of either 0.30 (M1) or 0.70 (M2), and the mixtures were fed ad libitum. Intakes of DM (kg day(-1): B1 = 21.0, B2 = 20.6 and B3 = 20.0) and neutral detergent fibre (NDF; kg day(-1): B1 = 7.0, B2 = 6.4 and B3 = 63) decreased, whereas starch intake increased (kg day(-1): B1 = 3.1, B2 = 3.5 and B3 = 4.0) with increasing maturity at harvest. The apparent organic matter (CM) digestibility (g kg(-1): B1 = 800, B2 = 774 and B3 = 729) decreased with increasing maturity stage, and consequently so did the digestible OM intake. Milk (kg day(-1): B1 = 27.2, B2 = 26.1 and B3 = 25.9) and energy corrected milk (ECM; kg day(-1): B1 = 31.0, B2 = 29.4 and B3 = 28.2) yields, and protein concentration (g kg(-1): B1 = 37.1. B2 = 36.4 and B3 = 36.0) decreased with increasing maturity stage of the WCBS. When cows were fed diet B3 the milk fat concentration decreased (46.4 g kg(-1)) compared to diets B1 (49.3 g kg(-1)) and B2 (49.4 g kg(-1)). The difference in ECM yield between diets B1 and B3 was due to a combined effect of lower milk yield, and lower protein and fat concentrations. This was caused by the higher starch and lower NDF intakes with diet B3, which decreased the milk fat concentration. Moreover, a lower energy intake of diet B3 due to lower OM digestibility decreased milk protein concentration and milk yield. Mixing WCBS at the heading stage with grass silage (M2) decreased digestibility, compared to feeding the forages separately (B1). However, the differences were small and may be a result of soil contamination at harvest of some of the silages, which made the method with using incomplete faecal collection and internal marker acid insoluble ash less reliable. Including WCBS at the heading stage at 0.30 or 0.70 of forage DM did not affect DM intake or diet digestibility, probably because the grass silage in the study was very similar in energy content to the WCBS harvested at heading. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Forage; Hordeum vulgare; Dairy cows; Acid insoluble ash

Published in

Livestock Science
2009, Volume: 121, number: 121, pages: 155-161
Publisher: Elsevier

    SLU Authors

    • Wallsten, Johanna

      • Department of Agricultural Research for Northern Sweden, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
      • Martinsson, Kjell

        • Department of Agricultural Research for Northern Sweden, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Animal and Dairy Science
      Veterinary Science
      Agricultural Science

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