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Effect of whole cottonseed supplementation on energy and nitrogen partitioning and rumen function in dairy cattle on a forage and cereal grain diet

C. Grainger A C , T. Clarke A and R. J. Eckard B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Primary Industries, Ellinbank, Vic. 3821, Australia.

B Faculty of Land and Food Resources, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Vic. 3010, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 48(7) 860-865
Submitted: 10 December 2007  Accepted: 8 April 2008   Published: 20 June 2008


The experimental objective was to determine the effect of adding whole cottonseed (WCS) to a forage and cereal grain diet on the energy and nitrogen balance and rumen function of lactating dairy cattle. Two experiments were carried out, a field experiment and an indoor metabolism experiment. In the field experiment, 50 lactating cows ~200 days in milk were randomly allocated to one of two groups (control or WCS). Cows were offered lucerne hay (morning) and ryegrass-based pasture silage (afternoon) in one group for 5 weeks. The hay and silage were placed on the ground in a bare paddock. Cows in each group were also individually offered cracked grain in a feed trough at 3 kg dry matter (DM)/ at milking times. In addition, at milking times, cows in the WCS group were individually offered 2.7 kg DM/ of WCS with their grain supplement. Samples of rumen fluid were collected from each fistula, ~4 h after grain feeding in the morning, of eight cows (four per group) on 1 day in each of the 5 weeks of treatment. In the metabolism experiment, immediately after the 5 weeks of feeding, 12 lactating cows, six from each treatment from the field experiment, were randomly selected and individually housed in metabolism stalls and fed the same diets for a 6-day energy and nitrogen balance study. Cows were fed at milking times (0700 and 1530 hours) and all feed offered and refused was weighed daily. All cows were offered 5.6 kg DM/ of pasture silage, 4 kg DM/ of lucerne hay and 3 kg DM/ of cereal grain. In addition, cows in the WCS treatment group were offered 2.7 kg DM/ of WCS with their grain supplement. In the metabolism study, adding WCS to the diet resulted in a greater energy intake, but there was no depression in energy digestibility. Whole cottonseed also increased nitrogen intake and nitrogen digestibility of the diet was increased from 62 to 75%, but the proportion of nitrogen in milk remained the same with a greater proportion of nitrogen appearing in body tissue. In the field experiment, supplementation with WCS did not alter rumen fluid ammonia-N or volatile fatty acid concentrations. Adding WCS did not affect three of the main classes of protozoa, based on size, within the two major orders of ciliate protozoa. The WCS did, however, reduce the levels of entodiniomorphs >200 µm diameter and holotrichs < 200 µm diameter, but these only account for a small number of the total protozoa present. Supplementation of a forage and grain-based diet with WCS improved the energy and protein content of the diet without any negative effects on rumen digestion and with a similar proportion of dietary energy and nitrogen appearing in milk. Over the summer period in winter-rainfall dairying areas in south-east Australia when pasture availability is limited and the diet is mainly comprised of forage and cereal grain fed at a level that is energy-limiting for maximum production, WCS can be and is used to supplement the diet to improve milk yield and profitability.

Additional keywords: rumen protozoa, methane.


The Department of Primary Industries – Victoria, the Victorian Greenhouse Strategy, the Australian Greenhouse Office and Dairy Australia funded this study.


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