Growth performance, rumen fermentation, nutrient utilization, and metabolic profile of dairy heifers limit-fed distillers dried grains with ad libitum forage.

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Journal of Dairy Science










The objective of this study was to determine the effects of feeding a corn- and soybean-product-based concentrate mix or distillers dried grains with solubles concentrate mix with ad libitum grass hay to dairy heifers. A 16-wk randomized complete block design study was conducted using 24 heifers [18 Holstein and 6 Brown Swiss; 219 ± 2 d of age (±standard deviation); 230 ± 4 kg of body weight] to evaluate the effect of diet on dry matter intake (DMI), growth performance, rumen fermentation, metabolic profile, and nutrient digestibility. Treatments were (1) corn and soybean product concentrate mix, and (2) distillers-dried-grains-with-solubles-based concentrate mix (DDG). Both concentrate mixes were limit-fed at 0.8% of body weight and grass hay was offered ad libitum. Heifers were individually fed using Calan gates and orts were recorded daily at feeding. Heifers were weighed every 2 wk and ration concentrate mix offered was adjusted accordingly. Frame measurements and body condition score were recorded every 2 wk. Rumen fluid was collected via esophageal tubing during wk 12 and 16 for pH, ammonia N, and volatile fatty acid analysis. Jugular blood samples were collected every 4 wk for metabolite and metabolic hormone analysis. Total-tract digestibility of nutrients was evaluated during wk 16 by fecal grab sampling. No treatment by week interactions were observed for any of the growth measurements and growth measurements and DMI did not differ between treatments. A treatment by time interaction was observed for rumen butyrate percentage with heifers fed DDG having a greater percentage. Total volatile fatty acid concentration, acetate molar percentage, and acetate:propionate decreased with the DDG treatment, whereas propionate molar percentage increased. No treatment by week interactions were observed for any of the metabolites or metabolic hormones measured. A tendency was observed for glucose and plasma urea nitrogen concentration to decrease with DDG. Plasma cholesterol and insulin increased with DDG. Results demonstrated that limit-feeding heifers DDG at 0.8% of body weight with ad libitum grass hay maintained growth performance, average daily gain, DMI, and gain:feed, with shifts in the metabolic profile compared with the corn and soybean product concentrate mix.