U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



American Dairy Science Association®, 2019


J. Dairy Sci. 102:9932–9942 https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2018-16168


This study was carried out to evaluate the nutrient intakes and growth of dairy heifers offered an alfalfa silage– corn silage diet (CON; 14.3% crude protein, 61.1% total digestible nutrients, 47.9% neutral detergent fiber) compared with diets containing 1 of 2 types of sorghumsudangrass (SS) silages: conventional or photoperiod sensitive. The objective of the study was to determine the potential to use SS to control dry matter (DM) and nutrient intakes and weight gain. Both diets were similar in nutrient composition, with approximately 13% crude protein, 60 to 61% total digestible nutrients, and 55% neutral detergent fiber. Seventy-two Holstein heifers (16–18 mo at study initiation) were blocked by initial body weight (light = 422 ± 12.8 kg; medium = 455 ± 14.8 kg; heavy = 489 ± 16.7 kg) with 3 pens assigned to each weight block (8 heifers/pen; 24 heifers/block). The 3 diets were randomly allocated to the pens within each block and offered for 12 wk. Heifers offered the CON diet had greater DM, protein, and energy intakes compared with those offered the SS silage-based diets due to the greater neutral detergent fiber concentration of the SS diets. With lower DM and nutrient intakes, average daily gain was in the recommended range (0.8– 1 kg/d for Holstein heifers) for heifers offered the SS silage-based diets (mean of 0.92 kg/d for both SS diets vs. 1.11 kg/d for CON). Sorting behaviors for heifers offered both SS diets were more aggressive against long, medium, and short particles compared with those of heifers offered the CON diet; however, heifers sorted large particles from photoperiod-sensitive silage more aggressively than those from conventional silage. Based on this study, SS silage-based diets can control the DM and energy intakes for heifers and maintain optimum growth rates, with harvesting at a shorter chop length likely helping to alleviate sorting issues.