Effects of Feeding Hulless Barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and Supplementing a Fibrolytic Enzyme on Production Performance, Nutrient Digestibility, and Milk Fatty Acid Composition of Lactating Dairy Cows
The overall objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of feeding hulless barley and supplementing a xylanase enzyme on production performance and nutrient utilization of lactating dairy cows. In study 1, we evaluated production performance, milk fatty acid composition, and nutrient digestibility in high-producing dairy cows consuming diets containing corn and hulless barley in different proportions as the grain source. We hypothesized that a plausible reduction in production performance would be explained by an altered rumen function, which would be reflected in a reduction of the proportion of de novo fatty acids in milk fat. The inclusion of hulless barley grain as the energy source in diets for lactating dairy cows resulted in similar production performance and nutrient utilization as corn grain. We concluded that hulless barley is as good as corn grain as an energy source and increasing NDF concentration in hulless barley-based diet is not necessary. In study 2, we evaluated production performance, nutrient digestibility, and milk fatty acid composition of high-producing dairy cows consuming diets containing hulled or hulless barley as the grain source. We hypothesized that rumen function is altered when cows are fed low-forage diets containing barley grains, and this altered rumen function would be reflected in lower production performance and a reduction of fatty acids synthesis in the mammary gland. Contrary to our expectations, feeding hulled barley or hulless barely based diets with different forage to concentrate ratios to lactating dairy cows resulted in similar production performance and nutrient utilization. We concluded that both hulled or hulless barley grains are good energy sources for sustaining high milk production and there is no need to increase NDF concentration in diet when using barley grain as the grain source. In study 3, we evaluated the effects of supplementing a xylanase enzyme on production performance and nutrient digestibility of lactating dairy cows fed diets containing corn or sorghum silage as the forage source. We hypothesized that supplementing a xylanase enzyme product in diets containing corn or sorghum silage increases NDF digestibility, and production performance of lactating dairy cows would also be improved due to enhanced fiber digestion. Supplementation of xylanase for 19 d did not affect cow performance and nutrient utilization. Supplementation of xylanase may require a longer period of time to show any response in production performance and nutrient digestibility. We concluded that supplementing xylanase to cows fed corn or sorghum silage-based diets did not improve fiber digestion. But for feeding hulled or hulless barley grains to lactating dairy cows, increased NDF concentration in diets is not necessary and hulless barley is good as corn grain for feeding lactating dairy cows as the grain source.