In situ dry matter and crude protein degradation of fresh forages during the spring growth

J. C. Elizalde, N. R. Merchen, D. B. Faulkner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We compared ruminal dry matter (DM) and crude protein (CP) degradation kinetics of fresh forages of alfalfa (vegetative, early bud, early flowering, and late flowering stages) and bromegrass with endophyte-free and endophyte-infected tall fescue (tillering, stem elongation, heading, and flowering stages) by using nonlinear models. Duplicate Dacron bags were incubated for 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 16, 24, 36, 48, and 60 h in 2 Simmental × Angus steers fitted with ruminal cannulas. The effects of animal, forage species, and maturity within forage species were evaluated. A first-order kinetics model was determined to be suitable for estimation of degradation profiles relative to models with variable rate of degradations. Alfalfa had higher soluble DM (36.6%), lower insoluble potentially digestible DM (43.0%), higher rate (13.8%/h), and higher extent of DM degradation (66.3%) than grasses (27.2, 53.5, 6.7%/h, and 54.6% for soluble DM, insoluble potentially digestible DM, rate, and extent of DM degradation, respectively). The extent of CP degradation was similar among forages (74.7%), but alfalfa had a higher CP degradation rate than grasses (16.1 vs. 12.5%/h). Extents of degradation of DM and CP decreased with maturity in alfalfa and in grasses. Ruminally undegradable CP (RUP) was higher in alfalfa (40.0 g/kg of DM) than in grasses (34.9 g/kg of DM), and decreased with maturity in grasses (40.4 to 28.3 g/kg of DM) but not in alfalfa. The amount of RUP that was potentially degradable in the rumen was not different among forage species (22.1 g/kg). As forage CP concentration decreased, the RUP (as a percentage of CP) increased but, as a percentage of forage DM, decreased. Species of forage had important effects on ruminal DM and CP degradation when incubated in fresh form.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1978-1990
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1999


  • Alfalfa
  • Grasses
  • In situ degradation
  • Maturity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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