Department of Animal Science



P. J. Kononoff

Date of this Version



Published in J. Dairy Sci. (2003) 86:2438–2451 © 2003 Journal of Dairy Science Used by Permission


The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of reducing forage particle length (FPL) and the inclusion of cottonseed hulls (CSH) on intake, digestibility, chewing activity, and milk production of cows in early lactation. Sixteen multiparous cows averaging 17 ± 3 d in milk and 677 ± 58 kg BW were assigned to one of four 4 × 4 Latin squares. One square contained ruminally cannulated cows to evaluate effects of treatment on rumen fermentation and function. During each of the 23-d periods, cows were offered one of four total mixed rations that differed in particle length (long or short corn silage) and CSH inclusion rate (0 or 8% DM). Dietary treatments were: long no CSH (LGNH), long with CSH (LGH), short no CSH (SHNH), and short with CSH (SHH). Total physically effective NDF content, measured as percentage of NDF greater than 1.18 mm, was similar across diets, but mean particle length decreased with reducing FPL and inclusion of CSH. Dry matter intake was not significantly affected by FPL but was significantly increased with the inclusion of CSH. Decreasing FPL and the inclusion of CSH significantly increased neutral detergent fiber intake. Total chewing activity expressed as minutes per day was unaffected by FPL and the inclusion of CSH. Both eating and ruminating efficiency expressed as minutes per kilogram of neutral detergent fiber intake increased with increasing FPL and decreased with the inclusion of CSH. Milk production did not differ across treatments, but the inclusion of CSH significantly increased percent and yield of milk protein. Reducing FPL tended to reduce percentage milk fat but not yield. Mean ruminal pH was not affected by FPL but was highest on diets containing CSH, even though no treatment effects were observed on total VFA, acetate, or propionate concentration. These results indicate that corn silage FPL is a poor predictor of total chewing time and rumen pH but is useful in understanding factors affecting feeding behavior. In addition, the inclusion of CSH, resulted in increased rumination and mean rumen pH even though effects on VFA concentration were not observed.