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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 45(6)

Rumen fermentation characteristics of dairy cows grazing different allowances of Persian clover- or perennial ryegrass-dominant swards in spring

Y. J. Williams A C, G. P. Walker B E, P. T. Doyle B, A. R. Egan A D, C. R. Stockdale B

A Institute of Land and Food Resources, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3010, Australia.
B Department of Primary Industries, Primary Industries Research Victoria, Kyabram, 120 Cooma Road, Kyabram, Vic. 3620, Australia.
C Present address: CSIRO Livestock Industries, Centre for Environmental and Life Sciences, Private Bag 5, Wembley, WA 6913, Australia.
D Present address: 145 Sterling Street, Bunbury, WA 6230, Australia.
E Corresponding author. Email: glen.walker@dpi.vic.gov.au
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An experiment was conducted in which cows in early lactation grazed Persian clover (Trifolium resupinatum L.) or perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.)-dominant pastures at low or high pasture allowances in order to determine the effects of pasture type and level of feeding on rumen fermentation patterns. The hypotheses for grazing dairy cows were: (i) the consumption of Persian clover would result in a more rapid rate of degradation and less stable rumen fermentation patterns compared with perennial ryegrass; and (ii) the greater intake of cows grazing at high compared with low pasture allowances would also cause less stable rumen fermentation patterns. Stability of rumen fermentation refers to the level to which rumen fluid pH declines, especially for long periods of a day, indicating that the rumen is not coping with neutralising and/or removing acids.

Cows grazing Persian clover had lower (P<0.05) average daily rumen fluid pH (5.7 v. 5.9), molar proportions of acetic acid (68.3 v. 70.6%) and ratios of lipogenic to glucogenic volatile fatty acid (4.6 v. 5.1) in the rumen than those grazing perennial ryegrass. They had higher (P<0.05) rumen fluid ammonia-N (26.3 v. 13.0 mg/100 mL) and total volatile fatty acid (165 v. 134 mmol/L) concentrations and molar proportions of butyric (11.3 v. 10.7%) and propionic (17.2 v. 16.1%) acids than cows grazing perennial ryegrass.

Cows grazing at low pasture allowances had a higher (P<0.05) average daily rumen fluid pH (5.9 v. 5.7) and lower rumen fluid ammonia-N (18.6 v. 20.7 mg/100 mL) and total volatile fatty acid (143 v. 156 mmol/L) concentrations than cows grazing at high pasture allowances. Cows given Persian clover at the high allowance had a rumen fluid pH less than 6.0 for the entire day while rumen fluid pH was below 6.0 for at least 15 h of the day on all the other treatments. There was no effect (P>0.05) of pasture allowance on the degradation rate of perennial ryegrass dry matter, but the higher allowance of Persian clover resulted in the highest (P<0.05) rate of degradation of dry matter compared with either ryegrass treatment or the low allowance of Persian clover. The effective dry matter degradability of Persian clover was greater (P<0.05) than that of perennial ryegrass, and the effective dry matter degradability of herbage in cows grazing at low allowances was greater (P<0.05) than at higher allowances. However, future research should consider neutral detergent fibre degradation in grazing dairy cows with low rumen fluid pH levels.

Keywords: rates of degradation, rumen fluid ammonia, rumen fluid pH, rumen pool sizes, volatile fatty acids.

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