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The use of n-alkanes to estimate herbage intake and diet composition by dairy cows offered a perennial ryegrass/white clover mixture

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The n-alkane technique for estimating herbage intake and diet selection in dairy cows fed perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne)/white clover (Trifolium repens) herbages was evaluated. Pairs of animals were offered either 8, 10, 12 or 14 kg dry matter (DM) d−1 of herbage alone or with 2 kg DM d−1 of barley. Fresh herbage was cut daily from a perennial ryegrass/white clover sward and the appropriate amount was fed in four feeds during the day. Individual intakes and the white clover proportion of the diet were estimated during a 12-d period using the n-alkane technique. Animals were dosed twice daily with paper pellets containing dotriacontane (C32-alkane). Faecal grab samples were collected after the morning and afternoon milking. Three least-squares optimization methods were compared in calculating the white clover proportion in the diet; then, total DM intake was calculated. The different least-squares optimization methods gave similar predictions of the white clover content of the forage consumed. No significant (P < 0.05) effects of sampling routine, concentrate (barley) fed or interactions between the two were detected with respect to the difference between calculated and actual intake, the difference as a proportion of the total intake and estimated white clover content of the diet. The difference between the calculated and actual intake ranged from 139 to 366 g DM d −1, which resulted in a proportional difference ranging from 0.004 to 0.02 depending on sampling routine. The actual white clover content of the herbage mixture fed was 0.42 ± 0.008, whereas the estimated white clover content ranged from 0.41 ± 0.006 to 0.43 ± 0.008. The results suggest that accurate herbage intake estimates can be achieved in dairy cows grazing perennial ryegrass/white clover swards if representative samples from herbage consumed can be collected.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Scottish Agricultural College, Crichton Royal Farm, Dumfries, UK 2: Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, UK

Publication date: June 1, 1998


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