Comparison of the effects of three methods of harvesting and storing alfalfa on nutrient digestibility by lambs and feedlot performance of steers.

N. R. Merchen, L. L. Berger, G. C. Fahey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Two lamb digestion and three steer growth experiments were conducted to study the feeding value of alfalfa harvested as direct-cut silage (DCS) with grain added prior to ensiling or as low-moisture silage (LMS) or hay with grain added at feeding. In all experiments, alfalfa-grain mixtures contained approximately 50% alfalfa and 50% concentrate (dry matter [DM] basis). In Exp. 1, lambs fed DCS alone consumed less DM than lambs fed LMS or hay alone or any of the alfalfa-grain mixtures. Apparent digestibilities of DM and fiber components were higher (P less than .05) for DCS than for LMS or hay. Lambs that were fed LMS digested more (P less than .05) DM and fiber components than lambs fed hay. Addition of grain resulted in increased (P less than .05) DM digestibility and decreased (P less than .05) digestibilities of neutral detergent fiber and acid detergent fiber. In Exp. 2, growing steers (271 kg) fed DCS-grain had increased (P less than .05) weight gains compared with steers fed hay-grain. Steers fed any of the alfalfa-grain mixtures gained weight more rapidly (P less than .05) than steers fed corn silage (CS)-based diets. In a third experiment, finishing steers (283 kg) fed DCS-grain, LMS-grain, hay-grain or CS-based diets performed similarly (P greater than .05), although steers fed DCS-grain had higher (P less than .05) dressing percentages and yield grades than steers that were fed the other three diets and were fatter (P less than .05) than those fed LMS-grain or CS. In Exp. 4, lambs fed DCS-grain or LMS-grain had higher (P less than .05) apparent DM and organic matter digestibilities than lambs fed CS-based diets with similar forage:grain proportions. In Exp. 5, finishing steers (326 kg) fed DCS-grain gained similarly (P greater than .05) to steers fed LMS-grain or an 85% concentrate diet based on high-moisture corn. Steers fed CS diets had lower (P less than .05) gains and increased (P less than .05) feed per gain compared with steers fed DCS-grain, LMS-grain or high-moisture corn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1026-1035
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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