The influence of grass and maize silage quality on apparent diet digestibility, metabolizable energy concentration and intake of finishing beef cattle
The effects of offering a range of grass silages and mixtures of grass and maize silages on the intake of beef cattle were studied. Four grass silages (GS1, GS2, GS3 and GS4) were used. Grass silage 1 was ensiled from a second regrowth in mid-late September and treated with an inoculant additive. Grass silages 2, 3 and 4 were ensiled, without additive, from a primary regrowth harvested in early July, late May and mid-June respectively. Wilting periods were 8, 30, 36 and 36 h for GS1, GS2, GS3 and GS4 respectively. Grass silages 1, 2 and 3 were precision chopped and ensiled in bunker silos, while GS4 was ensiled in round bales. The DM content (g kg−1) and starch concentration (g kg−1 DM) of the three maize silages (MS1, MS2 and MS3) used were 256 and 128, 256 and 184, and 402 and 328 for MS1, MS2 and MS3 respectively. Seventy-two Charolais and Limousin cross-bred steers were used in a changeover design with two 4-week periods. The study consisted of sixteen treatments incorporating the four grass silages fed alone and with the three maize silages arranged as a 4 × 4 factorial design. The grass silage and maize silage mixtures were offered in a ratio of 0·60:0·40 (DM basis) once daily using individual Calan gates. All silages were offered ad libitum with 3 kg per head per day of a concentrate supplement. Dry matter and metabolizable energy (ME) intakes were highest with diets based on grass silage GS4 compared with diets containing the other grass silages. Metabolizable energy intakes of diets containing no maize silage, and those based on MS1 and MS2, were similar (P > 0·05) but lower than that of diets containing MS3. Only limited increases were found in DM and ME intakes with the inclusion of maize silage in grass silage-based diets while offering high-quality grass silage (assessed in terms of DM content, and fibre and N concentrations) promoted high voluntary intakes.