Animal Science Department


Date of this Version



J. Dairy Sci. 101:1–15


© American Dairy Science Association

This document is a U.S. government work and is not subject to copyright in the United States.


Feeding fat to lactating dairy cows may reduce methane production. Relative to cellulose, fermentation of hemicellulose is believed to result in less methane; however, these factors have not been studied simultaneously. Eight multiparous, lactating Jersey cows averaging (±SD) 98 ± 30.8 d in milk and body weight of 439.3 ± 56.7 kg were used in a twice-replicated 4 × 4 Latin square to determine the effects of fat and hemicellulose on energy utilization and methane production using a headbox-type indirect calorimetry method. To manipulate the concentration of fat, porcine tallow was included at either 0 or 2% of the diet dry matter. The concentration of hemicellulose was adjusted by manipulating the inclusion rate of corn silage, alfalfa hay, and soybean hulls resulting in either 11.3 or 12.7% hemicellulose (dry matter basis). The resulting factorial arrangement of treatments were low fat low hemicellulose (LFLH), low fat high hemicellulose (LFHH), high fat low hemicellulose (HFLH), and high fat high hemicellulose (HFHH). Neither fat nor hemicellulose affected dry matter intake, averaging 16.2 ± 1.18 kg/d across treatments. Likewise, treatments did not affect milk production, averaging 23.0 ± 1.72 kg/d, or energy-corrected milk, averaging 30.1 ± 2.41 kg/d. The inclusion of fat tended to reduce methane produced per kilogram of dry matter intake from 24.9 to 23.1 ± 1.59 L/kg, whereas hemicellulose had no effect. Increasing hemicellulose increased neutral detergent fiber (NDF) digestibility from 43.0 to 51.1 ± 2.35%. Similarly, increasing hemicellulose concentration increased total intake of digestible NDF from 6.62 to 8.42 ± 0.89 kg/d, whereas fat had no effect. Methane per unit of digested NDF tended to decrease from 64.8 to 49.2 ± 9.60 L/ kg with increasing hemicellulose, whereas fat had no effect. An interaction between hemicellulose and fat content on net energy balance (milk plus tissue energy) was observed. Specifically, increasing hemicellulose in low-fat diets tended to increase net energy balance, but this was not observed in high-fat diets. These results confirm that methane production may be reduced with the inclusion of fat, whereas energy utilization of lactating dairy cows is improved by increasing hemicellulose in low-fat diets.