Date of this Version
J. Dairy Sci. 95 :6057–6071; http://dx.doi.org/ 10.3168/jds.2012-5686
Previous research has shown that eastern gamagrass (EGG; Tripsacum dactyloides L.) will survive winter climatic conditions common throughout central Wisconsin, and will produce yields of dry matter (DM) ranging approximately from 7,000 to 10,000 kg/ha annually when managed with a 1-cut harvest system. The objective of this research was to determine whether the fibrous nature of this perennial warm-season grass could be effective in reducing the caloric density and DMI of corn silage/alfalfa haylage diets for replacement dairy heifers. A total of 120 Holstein dairy heifers were blocked by body weight (heavy, 424 ± 15.9 kg; medium, 369 ± 11.8 kg; light, 324 ± 22.4 kg), and then assigned to 15 individual pens containing 8 heifers each. Eastern gamagrass forage was harvested, ensiled, and subsequently incorporated into blended corn silage/ alfalfa haylage diets at rates of 0, 9.1, 18.3, or 27.4% of the total dietary DM (EGG0, EGG9, EGG18, and EGG27, respectively). These diets were offered during a 105-d evaluation period for ad libitum intake; however, the EGG0 diet also was offered on a limit-fed basis (LF), which was set at 85% of the voluntary intake of EGG0. Serial additions of EGG increased concentrations of neutral detergent fiber in blended diets from 39.6 (EGG0) to 48.7% (EGG27), and simultaneously reduced corresponding estimates of total digestible nutrients (TDN) from 68.2 to 61.3%, and net energy for gain from 1.07 to 0.83 Mcal/kg. Dry matter intakes for all diets offered ad libitum were greater than observed for LF (9.06 vs. 8.07 kg/d); however, DM intakes for diets containing EGG were reduced relative to EGG0 (9.40 vs. 8.94 kg/d). Similarly, intakes of TDN were greater for diets offered for ad libitum intake than for LF (5.84 vs. 5.50 kg/d); however, inclusion of EGG reduced TDN intakes relative to EGG0 (6.41 vs. 5.65 kg/d). This reduction was explained by both linear and quadratic effects of the inclusion rate of EGG in the diet. Over the 105-d trial, total weight gains ranged from 89 kg (0.85 kg/d) for heifers offered EGG27 up to 114 kg (1.09 kg/d) for those offered EGG0. Performance was similar between heifers offered EGG27 and LF diets (0.85 vs. 0.88 kg/d). Eastern gamagrass haylage proved to be a completely nonsortable additive within corn silage/alfalfa haylage diets. It also was effective in limiting the caloric density and DM intake of these diets, as well as undesirable weight gains by dairy heifers.