The study examined the effects of physical form and harvest time of alfalfa silage on eating and ruminating activity and particle size distribution in feed boli, rumen content and faeces in dry cows. The alfalfa crop was harvested at two stages of growth (early: NDF 37%, late: NDF 44% in dry matter (DM)), and from each harvest, a chopped (theoretical cutting length: 19 mm) and an unchopped crop was ensiled in bales. The silages were fed restrictively to four rumen cannulated non-lactating Jersey cows (391 ± 26 kg) in a 4 × 4 Latin square design. The cows were fed restrictively 80% of their ad libitum intake twice daily. Chewing activity was recorded for 96 h continuously. Swallowed boli, rumen content, rumen fluid and faeces samples were collected, washed in nylon bags (0.01 mm pore size) and freeze-dried before dry sieving through 4.750, 2.360, 1.000, 0.500 and 0.212 mm pore sizes into six fractions. The length (PL) and width (PW) of particles within each fraction was measured by the use of image analysis. The eating activity (min/kg dry matter intake (P < 0.01) and min/kg NDF (P < 0.05)) was affected by harvest time. The mean ruminating time (min/kg DM) was affected by harvest time (P < 0.01), physical form (P < 0.05) and NDF intake per kg BW (P < 0.01). The proportion of washed particle DM of total DM in boli, rumen content, rumen fluid and faeces was affected by harvest time (P < 0.01) and highest by feeding late-harvested alfalfa silage. Two peaks on the probability density distribution function (PDF) of PW and PL values of boli, rumen content and faeces were identified. Chopping of the silage decreased the mean PL and PW, the most frequent PL (mode) and 95% percentile PL and PW values in boli. In the rumen content, chopping increased the mean PW (P < 0.05). The dimension sizes of faeces particles were not significantly affected by chopping. The mode PW value was lower in rumen content and faeces than in boli (P < 0.001), and the mode PL value was higher in boli and lower in faeces compared with rumen contents (P < 0.001). In conclusion, the mean total chewing activity per kg NDF decreased due to chopping and early harvest time. The mean PL and PW in boli decreased due to chopping and late harvest. The two peak values on the PDF (PL) and PDF (PW) of boli, rumen content and faeces particles are most likely related to the leaf and the stem residues.
Animal, 2013, Vol 7, Issue 2, p. 232-244
particle length; particle width; most frequent length; chopping; mastication