Effects of dietary physically effective neutral detergent fiber content on the feeding behavior, digestibility, and growth of 8- to 10-month-old Holstein replacement heifers
ABSTRACT The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of dietary physically effective neutral detergent fiber (peNDF) content on the feeding behavior, digestion, ruminal fermentation parameters, and growth of 8- to 10-mo-old dairy heifers and to predict the adequacy of dietary fiber in growing dairy heifers. Twenty-four Holstein dairy heifers (245 ± 10.8 d of age, 305.6 ± 8.5 kg initial live weight) were randomly divided into 4 treatments with 6 replicates as a completely randomized design. During the 60-d period with a 10-d adaptation, heifers were offered 1 of 4 diets, which were chemically identical but included different peNDF 8.0 (particle size is >8 mm and 8.0 content. The body frame size (including withers height, body length, and heart girth) of the heifers was not increased significantly by enhanced peNDF 8.0 content. Ruminal pH and ammonia concentration were both increased with increasing dietary peNDF 8.0 content. The ruminal total volatile fatty acid concentration and percentage of acetate and butyrate profiles were not significantly affected by dietary peNDF 8.0 content. However, the enhanced peNDF 8.0 content led to a decrease in the propionate percentage. The ratio of acetate to propionate in the 13.5% treatment was highest among the treatments. Increasing the particle size and dietary peNDF 8.0 content resulted in increased eating and chewing time but had no effect on rumination time. Heifer total eating and chewing time and eating and chewing time per kilogram of dry matter intake were increased with increasing dietary peNDF 8.0 content. The apparent digestibility of acid detergent fiber and crude protein was improved with an increasing content of dietary peNDF 8.0 . The results suggest that an optimal or advisable dietary particle size and peNDF 8.0 content improves chewing activity, rumen fluid pH, and ruminal fermentation. The data based on feeding behavioral and growth responses of heifers as well as rumen fermentation and digestion by improving total eating and chewing time indicate that 18.0% dietary peNDF 8.0 content is the most suitable for 8- to 10-mo-old Holstein heifers.
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