Interactions between supplement energy source and tall fescue hay maturity on forage utilization by beef steers

B. G. Fieser, E. S. Vanzant

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38 Scopus citations


This experiment was conducted to determine the effects of tall fescue hay maturity on intake, digestion, and ruminal fermentation responses to different supplemental energy sources fed to beef steers. Twelve ruminally cannulated, crossbred steers (initial BW = 228 ± 21 kg) were used in a split-plot experiment with a 3 x 4 factorial treatment arrangement. Steers were assigned randomly to three supplement treatments: 1) no supplement, 2) pelleted soybean hulls, or 3) coarse cracked corn. The second treatment factor was fescue hay maturity: 1) vegetative (VEG), 2) boot-stage (BOOT), 3) heading-stage (HEAD), and 4) mature (MAT). Supplements were fed once daily at 0.67% of BW (OM basis) and tall fescue hay was offered once daily at 150% of average intake. Supplement type x forage maturity interactions were not detected (P ≥ 0.25) for forage, total, or digestible OM intake, which generally decreased (P < 0.01) with advancing forage maturity. Supplementation decreased (P < 0.01) forage and increased (P < 0.01) total OM intake. Supplement type had no effect (P = 0.56) on substitution ratio (unit change in forage intake per unit of supplement intake). Digestible OM intake was increased (P < 0.01) by supplementation and was greater (P = 0.05) with soybean hulls than with corn. Supplement type x forage maturity interactions (P ≤ 0.10) were observed for OM and NDF digestibilities and N retention. Increases in digestibility with soybean hulls relative to corn were greater and supplementation elicited greater increases in N retention with more mature forages. Compared with soybean hulls, corn supplementation resulted in greater (P < 0.01) negative associative effects on OM digestibility. Supplementation did not affect (P ≥ 0.10) ruminal pH, total VFA concentrations, or acetate:propionate ratio. Corn supplementation decreased (P ≤ 0.07) ruminal NH3-N concentrations compared with control and soybean hulls; however, decreases in ruminal NH3-N concentrations were not consistent with the presence of negative associative effects. Thus, mechanisms not involving ruminal pH or NH3-N concentration seem responsible for negative associative effects observed with corn supplementation. Within the range of forage quality in this study, increases in digestible OM intake from starch- or fiber-based supplements were independent of forage maturity. When fed at similar levels of OM, soybean hull supplementation provided an average of 6% greater digestible OM intake than corn supplementation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-318
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004


  • Associative Effects
  • Digestibility
  • Forage Intake
  • Supplementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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