Date of this Version
The objective of this experiment was to evaluate effects of reducing forage particle size on cows in early lactation based on measurements of the Penn State Particle Separator (PSPS). Eight cannulated, multiparous cows averaging 19 ± 4 d in milk and 642 ± 45 kg BW were assigned to one of two 4 × 4 Latin Squares. During each of the 23-d periods, animals were offered one of four diets, which were chemically identical but included alfalfa haylage of different particle size; short (SH), mostly short (MSH), mostly long (MLG), and long (LG). Physically effective neutral detergent fiber (peNDF) was determined by measuring the amount of neutral detergent fiber retained on a 1.18 mm screen and was similar across diets (25.7, 26.2, 26.4, 26.7%) but the amount of particles >19.0 mm significantly decreased with decreasing particle size. Reducing haylage particle size increased dry matter intake linearly (23.3, 22.0, 20.9, 20.8 kg for SH, MSH, MLG, LG, respectively). Milk production and percentage fat did not differ across treatments averaging 35.5 ± 0.68 kg milk and 3.32 ± 0.67% fat, while a quadratic effect was observed for percent milk protein, with lowest values being observed for LG. A quadratic effect was observed for mean rumen pH (6.04, 6.15, 6.13, 6.09), while A:P ratio decreased linearly (2.75, 2.86, 2.88, 2.92) with decreasing particle size. Total time ruminating increased quadratically (467, 498, 486, 468 min/d), while time eating decreased linearly (262, 253, 298, 287 min/d) with decreasing particle size. Both eating and ruminating per unit of neutral detergent fiber intake decreased with reducing particle size (35.8, 36.7, 44.9, 45.6 min/ kg; 19.9, 23.6, 23.5, 23.5 min/kg). Although chewing activity was closely related to forage particle size, effects on rumen pH were small, indicating factors other than particle size are critical in regulating pH when ration neutral detergent fiber met recommended levels. Feeding alfalfa haylage based rations of reduced particle size resulted in animals consuming more feed but did not affect milk production.