Optimal forage allocation and supplementation strategies for dairy cattle must consider variation in forage quality characteristics as well as cow's responses to their diet throughout lactation. Forage quality characteristics can affect diet cost, energy intake and partitioning, feed conversion efficiency (FCE), and animal health. These characteristics include concentration and digestion characteristics of cell walls as well as particle size and fragility.
Forages are unique among diet ingredients fed to ruminants because they provide fiber that is effective at retaining feed particles in the rumen, increasing their digestibility and increasing digesta mass and volume. Increased digesta mass in the rumen can reduce risk of ruminal acidosis and abomasal displacement but can also limit feed intake, depending upon the physiological state of animals.
Eating is controlled by the integration of signals in brain feeding centers. Signals from ruminal distension can control feed intake when the drive to eat is high and metabolic control of feed intake is diminished (e.g. cows at peak lactation) while signals derived from metabolism of fuels dominate the control of feed intake when signals from distension decrease (e.g. cows in late lactation).
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Article made possible through the contribution of Lallemand Animal Nutrition.