Substitution of fresh forage ramie for alfalfa hay in diets affects production performance, milk composition, and serum parameters of dairy cows
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We hypothesized that ramie, Boehmeria nivea (a nettle native to Asia), can be used as a high-quality forage to replace alfalfa hay in diets of dairy cows. Accordingly, we aimed to examine the effects of substituting fresh forage ramie for alfalfa (Medicago sativa) hay on production performance, milk composition, and serum parameters of dairy cows. Thirty-two Holstein cows (body weight (BW) = 590 ± 50.6 kg) were randomly divided into four groups of eight cows. The experimental period lasted 10 weeks. The dietary treatments consisted of four proportions of fresh forage ramie (0, 33, 67, and 100%) as a substitute for alfalfa hay (designated as CON, FR33, FR67, and FR100, respectively). On days 69 and 70 of the experimental period, milk and blood samples were collected for analysis. We found no significant differences in the milk yield and milk quality (milk protein percentage, milk fat percentage, and milk lactose percentage) between the treatments. We did find that forage ramie significantly reduced dry matter intake (DMI) and 4% fat-corrected milk (FCM) yield. Meanwhile, no significant differences were detected in serum parameters between the treatments, with the exception of triglyceride (TG) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT). In conclusion, our data indicate that alfalfa hay can be replaced with forage ramie in the diet of Holstein cows in the milk lactation stage, with no negative effects on milk quality and blood parameters.
KeywordsHolstein cow Milk composition Production performance Ramie Serum
The National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant no. 31501988), Hunan Provincial Major Scientific and Technological Special Project (no. 2017NK1020), Hunan Provincial Key Research and Development Project (no. 2016NK2170), and Hunan Natural Science Foundation (2018JJ4017) supported this work.
Compliance with ethical standards
All protocols used in the study were approved by the Hunan Institute of Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine Animal Care and Use Committee.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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