Intake and chewing behavior of steers consuming switchgrass preserved as hay or silage

J M Luginbuhl, K R Pond, J C Burns, D S Fisher
Journal of Animal Science 2000, 78 (7): 1983-9
Effect of preservation method on intake and chewing behavior was examined using a first, late vegetative harvest (mid-June) of Kanlow switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.). For silage (S), forage was harvested with a commercial field chopper (1.5 to 4 cm average chop length) and ensiled directly in silos 1.2 m in diameter and 3.6 m in height. For hay (H), forage was harvested with a flail-chopper (7 to 15 cm average chop length) and cured as hay in a drier at 77 degrees C. Diets of H and S were fed to six Hereford steers (338+/-5 kg) in a single crossover experiment. Chewing behavior was monitored for 4 d with a computerized system. At feeding, H was higher in DM and contained greater concentrations (DM basis) of NDF, CP, and hemicellulose, but lower concentrations of ADF and cellulose, and had lower in vitro DM disappearance values. Steers fed S had higher intakes of DM (P < .02) and NDF (P < .04) and consumed less water from the water supply (P < .01) than animals fed H. However, total amount of water (from water supply and feed) consumed per kilogram of DMI did not differ between diets. Crude protein intake was similar between diets. Preservation method had no effect on eating time, number of boli ruminated, bolus duration, and number of rumination chews per bolus. Steers fed S made fewer eating chews (P < .10) and ruminated for a longer time (P < .05) while making a greater number of rumination chews (P < .04) than steers fed H. Rumination intercycle time was slightly shorter in steers fed H (P < .05) than in steers fed S. When expressed per kilogram of NDF intake, steers fed S spent less time eating (P < .03) and made fewer eating chews (P < .02) than steers fed H; however, rumination time, number of rumination chews, and number of boli ruminated were not affected by preservation method. Steers fed S ingested feed at a greater rate (P < .03), excreted smaller fecal particles (P < .03), had meals of shorter duration (P < .06), spent less time eating during main meals (meals following feed distribution: P < .05), had more rumination periods (P < .01), and a shorter morning (P < .06) latency time (interval between end of main meal and onset of rumination) than steers fed H. These results indicate that preservation method with its concomitant differences in chop length affected forage chemical composition and voluntary intake, and that differences in chewing behavior occurred mostly during eating.

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