Feed intake, ruminal fermentation, and animal behavior of beef heifers fed forage free diets containing nonforage fiber sources

S. P. Iraira, J. L. Ruíz de la Torre, M. Rodríguez-Prado, S. Calsamiglia, X. Manteca, A. Ferret

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Eight Simmental heifers (initial BW 313.4 ± 13.2 kg) were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 experimental treatments in a 4 × 4 double Latin square design. The experiment was performed in four 28-d periods. Treatments tested were a control diet in which barley straw (BS) was used as a fiber source and 3 diets where the main difference was the nonforage fiber source used: soybean hulls (SH), beet pulp (BP) in pellets, and whole cottonseed (WCS). All ingredients, except the fiber sources, were ground through a 3-mm screen. Fiber ingredients were incorporated at 10, 17, 17, and 16% (on DM basis) in BS, SH, BP, and WCS, respectively. All diets were offered ad libitum as total mixed ration and designed to be isoenergetic (2.95 Mcal ME/kg DM), isonitrogenous (15% CP, DM basis), and with a NDF content of 20% (on DM basis) although there was a discrepancy between the theoretical and the actual chemical composition of the diets. Particle size separation was performed using the 3-screen Penn State Particle Separator. Animals were allotted in 8 individual roofed concrete pens equipped with a feedbunk and water trough. Intake was recorded over 7 d in the last week of each experimental period. Behavior was recorded for 24-h on d 2 and d 6 of each experimental week using a digital video recording device. A digital color camera was set up in front of each pen. Data recorded, except behavioral activities, were statistically analyzed using the MIXED procedure of SAS. To test treatment effect for each behavioral activity, analysis was performed using the GLIMMIX procedure of SAS. Diets ranked from greater to lesser proportion of particles of less than 1.18 mm as follows: SH, BS, WCS, and BP. Dry matter intake of heifers fed WCS was greater than the remaining treatments (P = 0.049). The greatest average ruminal pH was registered in heifers fed BS (6.4) and BP (6.3) whereas the smallest was recorded in SH diet (5.9), with WCS (6.2) occupying an intermediate position (P = 0.006). Total chewing time was greater (P = 0.001) in BS and WCS than in SH and BP. In conclusion, the nonforage fiber sources tested in this experiment can be used in forage-free diets fed to beef heifers as total mixed ration (TMR) without negative consequences in DMI in SH and BP diets and with an increased DMI in WCS diet. The WCS diet promoted rumination and total chewing time to the same degree as BS, which demonstrates that it is equally effective as this forage fiber source. © 2013 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3827-3835
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013


  • Beef heifers
  • Behavior
  • Nonforage fiber sources


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