Effects of feeding brown midrib corn silage with a high dietary concentration of alfalfa hay on lactational performance of Holstein dairy cows for the first 180 days of lactation
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This experiment was conducted to test a hypothesis that lactating dairy cows fed 35% brown midrib (BMR) corn silage and 25% alfalfa hay (dry matter (DM) basis) would consume more DM around peak lactation compared with those fed conventional corn silage (CS), resulting in longer peak milk production. Twenty-eight multiparous Holstein cows were used starting at the onset of lactation through 180 d in milk (DIM). Treatments were formulated to maintain a forage-to-concentrate ratio of 60:40, differing only in the CS hybrids used. Two dietary treatments were assessed in a completely randomized design: total mixed ration based on conventional CS (CCS) and total mixed ration based on BMR silage. Through peak lactation (1-60 DIM), DM intake was not different between dietary treatments, whereas DM intake post-peak lactation (61-180 DIM) tended to increase by feeding the BMR diet compared with the CCS diet (25.8 vs. 24.7 kg/d). Cows fed the BMR diet tended to lose less body weight through peak lactation compared with those fed the CCS diet (-0.22 vs. -0.52 kg/d). Although milk yield was not different between dietary treatments through peak lactation, milk yield post-peak lactation increased by feeding the BMR diet compared with the CCS diet (41.0 vs. 38.8 kg/d). Yield of 3.5% fat-corrected milk was similar between dietary treatments throughout the experiment (41.4 kg/d, on average), but milk fat concentration decreased by feeding the BMR diet compared with the CCS diet post-peak lactation (3.47 vs. 3.80%). Overall milk protein concentration was similar between dietary treatments throughout the experiment (2.96%, on average), whereas milk protein yield tended to be higher for the BMR diet post-peak lactation compared with the CCS diet (1.19 vs.1.13 kg/d). Feeding BMR silage with a high dietary concentration of alfalfa hay maintained more body weight, but did not affect milk production through peak lactation; however, cows fed the BMR diet post-peak lactation consumed more feed and maintained longer peak milk yield, leading to greater overall milk production and milk protein yield.