Intake, Digestibility In vivo, N Utilization and In sacco Dry Matter Degradability of Grass Silage Harvested at Three Stages of Maturity
Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences
The objective of this experiment was to study the effects of grass maturity at harvest on the nutritive value of grass silage (GS) in relation to voluntary intake, digestibility, nitrogen (N) utilization and in sacco dry matter (DM) degradability. Silage was cut from a sward dominated by orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.) at the late-vegetative (early-cut), internode elongation (mediumcut) and flowering (late-cut) stages of growth. The DM yield at harvest was the lowest for early-cut silage
... .4 t/ha) and increased to 6.5 and 7.0 t/ha for the medium and late-cut silage respectively. As the crop matured, the crude protein (CP) concentration decreased significantly (p<0.05) and there was a marked increase in acid detergent fiber (ADF) concentration (p<0.001). The three different silages were offered to four 18-month old Charolais wether sheep to measure the voluntary intake, in vivo digestibility and N retention over four 21-day periods in an incomplete changeover design. Silage degradability characteristics were determined using four fistulated sheep to measure DM degradability over 3, 6, 12, 24, 48 and 72 h. There was a linear decrease in the voluntary intake of silage fresh matter, DM, organic matter (OM) and neutral detergent fiber (NDF), digestibility of DM, OM, NDF, ADF and CP, and digestibility of OM in DM (Dvalue) (P L <0.01) as harvesting of grass was delayed. Nitrogen intake, N output in urine, N output in faeces and N balance also linearly decreased (P L <0.01) with postponed harvesting of grass for silage. DM degradability and effective degradability (ED) significantly decreased with increasing maturity of grass at harvest. The results suggest that harvesting date has a significant influence on the nutritive value of GS in terms of intake, digestibility, N balance and in sacco degradability in the rumen. It was concluded that early harvest GS ensured higher intake, digestibility, N intake and DM degradability in comparison with the medium and the late cut GS as a result of improved rumen N efficiency and utilization probably due to a better balance of available energy and protein.