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The effect of adding stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) haylage to a total mixed ration on performance and rumen function of lactating dairy cows

Humphries, D. J. and Reynolds, C. K. ORCID: (2014) The effect of adding stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) haylage to a total mixed ration on performance and rumen function of lactating dairy cows. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 189. pp. 72-81. ISSN 0377-8401

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2014.01.006


In vitro studies found that inclusion of dried stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) at 100 mg/g dry matter (DM) increased the pH of a rumen fluid inoculated fermentation buffer by 30% and the effect was persistent for 7 days. Our objective was to evaluate the effects of adding stinging nettle haylage to a total mixed ration on feed intake, eating and rumination activity, rumen pH, milk yield, and milk composition of lactating dairy cows. Six lactating Holstein-Friesian cows were used in a replicated 3 × 3 Latin Square design experiment with 3 treatments and 3 week periods. Treatments were a control (C) high-starch (311 g/kg DM) total mixed ration diet and two treatment diets containing 50 (N5) and 100 (N10) g nettle haylage (DM/kg) as a replacement for ryegrass silage (Lolium perenne). There was an increase (linear, P < 0.010) in the proportion of large particles and a reduction in medium (linear, P = 0.045) and fine particles (linear, P = 0.026) in the diet offered with increasing nettle inclusion. A numerical decrease (linear, P = 0.106) in DM intake (DMI) was observed as nettle inclusion in the diet increased. Milk yield averaged 20.3 kg/day and was not affected by diet. There was a decrease (quadratic, P = 0.01) in the time animals spent ruminating as nettle inclusion in the diet increased, in spite of an increase in the number of boli produced daily for the N5 diet (quadratic, P = 0.031). Animals fed the N10 diet spent less time with a rumen pH below 5.5 (P < 0.05) than cows fed the N5 diet. Averaged over an 8.5 h sampling period, there were no changes in the concentration or proportions of acetate or propionate in the rumen, but feeding nettle haylage reduced the concentrations of n-butyrate (quadratic, P < 0.001), i-butyrate (linear, P < 0.009) and n-caproate (linear, P < 0.003). Milk and fat and protein corrected milk yield were not affected when nettles replaced ryegrass silage in the diet of lactating dairy cows, despite a numerical reduction in feed intake. Rumination activity was reduced by the addition of nettle haylage to the diet, which may reflect differences in fibre structure between the nettle haylage and ryegrass silage fed. Changes observed in rumen pH suggest potential benefits of feeding nettle haylage for reducing rumen acidosis. However, the extent to which these effects were due to the fermentability and structure of the nettle haylage compared to the ryegrass silage fed, or a bioactive component of the nettles, is not certain

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development > Department of Animal Sciences > Animal, Dairy and Food Chain Sciences (ADFCS)- DO NOT USE
ID Code:36184

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