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Journal of Dairy Science






American Dairy Science Association

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Mechanical processing of whole crop barley before ensiling may be useful for improving nutrient use by dairy cattle. The objective of this study was to assess the effects of feeding mechanically processed barley silage as the main forage source on lactational performance. Twenty-four Holstein cows, 16 primiparous (187±52 days in milk) and 8 multiparous (87±69 days in milk) cows, were used in a completely randomized design with a 2-wk covariate period and a 6-wk treatment period. The 2 treatments were: 1) total mixed ration (TMR) containing regular barley silage (RBS-TMR), and 2) TMR containing mechanically processed barley silage (MPBS-TMR). Barley silage and alfalfa hay supplied 41 and 5% of the dietary dry matter (DM), respectively. Intake, body weight, and milk production were measured during the covariate and treatment periods. In addition, 2 multiparous cows were used for in situ measurements of the ruminal DM and fiber degradation kinetics of the barley silages and TMR. Data were analyzed with repeated measurements using a mixed model that included the covariate adjustment. Feeding MPBS-TMR had no significant effects on DM intake (DMI; 21.7 kg/d), milk yield (33.9 kg/d), or milk composition, with only 4% FCM (fat-corrected milk) yield (29.7 vs. 31.7 kg/d) and milk fat concentration (3.30 vs. 3.57%) showing a numerical improvement. Apparent digestibilities of DM and nutrients were not affected by feeding MPBS-TMR, with the exception of starch digestibility, which tended to increase. Dairy efficiencies calculated as milk yield/DMI or FCM/DMI were not different between treatments. Body weight and body condition score were not affected by treatments. Effective ruminal degradability of DM was similar for both barley silages, indicating that when the silages were ground to remove the effects of mechanical processing, the potential digestion was similar. Mechanical processing of barley silage harvested at a mid-dough stage of maturity resulted in small improvements in its nutritive value for lactating dairy cows and had minor impact on digestibility and milk production.

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