Increasing the content of physically effective fiber in high-concentrate diets fed to beef heifers affects intake, sorting behavior, time spent ruminating, and rumen pH

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Abstract

AbstractThe importance of fiber particle size in ruminal health is well known, but there are fewer studies to assess the requirements of physically effective NDF (peNDF) in beef cattle than in dairy cattle. The objective of this study was to establish the optimal peNDF proportion in high-concentrate diets fed to beef cattle, to reduce the risk of subacute ruminal acidosis. The experimental design was a replicated Latin Square 4 × 4, with four periods of 21 d. Treatments consisted of four diets with different peNDF proportions: 6.4%, 10.4%, 13.6%, and 15.4%, offered ad libitum as total mixed ration, and containing 15% barley straw and 85% concentrate. Diets, which differed in proportions of straw > 4 mm (considered peNDF) and straw < 4 mm, were manually mixed with concentrate. This concentrate was the same for all diets. A ruminal bolus was orally administered to each heifer for pH measurement. Intake, water consumption, intake by particle size, feed sorting, feeding behavior, behavioral activities, and rumen pH were recorded. Chemical composition and particle sizes of diets offered were assessed in the last week of each period. Data were analyzed using the MIXED procedure of SAS. Orthogonal contrasts determined the linear and quadratic effects of increasing peNDF proportion. T-test procedure determined whether heifers carried out sorting behavior. Particles >4 mm linearly increased (P = 0.001), and particles <4 mm linearly decreased (P = 0.001) as peNDF increased. Water consumption and feeding behavior were unaffected by treatment. As peNDF increased, intakes of DM and NDF linearly decreased (P = 0.001), whereas peNDF intake increased (P = 0.001). Intake of particles > 4 mm linearly increased, whereas intake of particles < 4 mm linearly decreased (P = 0.001) as peNDF increased. Diet 6.4% performed sorting for particles > 4 mm (P < 0.01), and diets 13.6% and 15.4% against particles > 4 mm (P < 0.01). Diet 10.4% tended to sort against particles > 4 mm (P < 0.10). Time spent ruminating linearly increased (P = 0.001) as peNDF increased. Diets did not differ in mean and minimum rumen pH, but time under rumen pH thresholds (5.8, 5.7, 5.6, and 5.5) linearly decreased as peNDF increased (P < 0.05). The results suggested that the diet that best met the requirements of not compromising intake, limiting sorting behavior, and promoting time spent ruminating to reduce the number of hours under rumen pH thresholds, was the 10.4% diet.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Volume98
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • beef cattle
  • behavior
  • physically effective fiber
  • rumen pH

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