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Prediction of nutrient digestibility and energy concentrations in fresh grass using nutrient composition

Stergiadis, S., Allen, M., Chen, X., Wills, D. and Tianhai, Y. (2015) Prediction of nutrient digestibility and energy concentrations in fresh grass using nutrient composition. Journal of Dairy Science, 98 (5). pp. 3257-3273. ISSN 0022-0302

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To link to this item DOI: 10.3168/jds.2014-8587

Abstract/Summary

Improved nutrient utilization efficiency is strongly related to enhanced economic performance and reduced environmental footprint of dairy farms. Pasture-based systems are widely used for dairy production in certain areas of the world, but prediction equations of fresh grass nutritive value (nutrient digestibility and energy concentrations) are limited. Equations to predict digestible energy (DE) and metabolizable energy (ME) used for grazing cattle have been either developed with cattle fed conserved forage and concentrate diets or sheep fed previously frozen grass, and the majority of them require measurements less commonly available to producers, such as nutrient digestibility. The aim of the present study was therefore to develop prediction equations more suitable to grazing cattle for nutrient digestibility and energy concentrations, which are routinely available at farm level by using grass nutrient contents as predictors. A study with 33 nonpregnant, nonlactating cows fed solely fresh-cut grass at maintenance energy level for 50 wk was carried out over 3 consecutive grazing seasons. Freshly harvested grass of 3 cuts (primary growth and first and second regrowth), 9 fertilizer input levels, and contrasting stage of maturity (3 to 9 wk after harvest) was used, thus ensuring a wide representation of nutritional quality. As a result, a large variation existed in digestibility of dry matter (0.642-0.900) and digestible organic matter in dry matter (0.636-0.851) and in concentrations of DE (11.8-16.7 MJ/kg of dry matter) and ME (9.0-14.1 MJ/kg of dry matter). Nutrient digestibilities and DE and ME concentrations were negatively related to grass neutral detergent fiber (NDF) and acid detergent fiber (ADF) contents but positively related to nitrogen (N), gross energy, and ether extract (EE) contents. For each predicted variable (nutrient digestibilities or energy concentrations), different combinations of predictors (grass chemical composition) were found to be significant and increase the explained variation. For example, relatively higher R(2) values were found for prediction of N digestibility using N and EE as predictors; gross-energy digestibility using EE, NDF, ADF, and ash; NDF, ADF, and organic matter digestibilities using N, water-soluble carbohydrates, EE, and NDF; digestible organic matter in dry matter using water-soluble carbohydrates, EE, NDF, and ADF; DE concentration using gross energy, EE, NDF, ADF, and ash; and ME concentration using N, EE, ADF, and ash. Equations presented may allow a relatively quick and easy prediction of grass quality and, hence, better grazing utilization on commercial and research farms, where nutrient composition falls within the range assessed in the current study.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Food Production and Quality Division > Animal, Dairy and Food Chain Sciences (ADFCS)
ID Code:42195
Publisher:American Dairy Science Association

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