Tropical Animal Health and Production

, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 469–472 | Cite as

Substitution of fresh forage ramie for alfalfa hay in diets affects production performance, milk composition, and serum parameters of dairy cows

  • Qiuzhong Dai
  • Zhenping Hou
  • Shuai Gao
  • Zhicai Li
  • Zhongshan Wei
  • Duanqin WuEmail author
Short Communications


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.


Holstein cow Milk composition Production performance Ramie Serum 


Funding information

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.


  1. Boerman J P, Potts S B, VandeHaar M J, Lock A L. 2015. Effects of partly replacing dietary starch with fiber and fat on milk production and energy partitioning, Journal of Dairy Science, 98, 7264-7276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Calder P C. 2015. Functional roles of fatty acids and their effects on human health, Journal of Parenteral & Enteral Nutrition, 39, 18S-32S.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chen Y, Wang G, Wang H, Cheng C, Zang G, Guo X, Liu R. 2014. Phytochemical profiles and antioxidant activities in six species of ramie leaves, PLoS ONE, 9, e108140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. De Toledo G S P, da Silva L P, de Quadros A R B, Retore M, Araújo I G, Brum H S, Melchior R. 2008. Productive performance of rabbits fed with diets containing ramie (Boehmeria nivea) hay in substitution to alfalfa (Medicago sativa) hay, In 9th World Rabbit Congress, June,10-13.Google Scholar
  5. Gabbi A M, Viegas J, Toledo G S P, Iora A L, Fronza L, Carlotto S B. 2005. Increasing levels of ramie (Boehmeria nivea) hay on the diets of fattening rabbits, In Proceedings of the 8th World Rabbit Congress, September, 7-10, 2004, Pueblo, Mexico (pp. 839-844). World Rabbit Science Association (WRSA).Google Scholar
  6. Kipriotis E, Heping X, Vafeiadakis T, Kiprioti M, Alexopoulou E. 2015. Ramie and kenaf as feed crops, Industrial Crops & Products, 68, 126-130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Lee H, Joo N. 2012. Optimization of pan bread prepared with ramie powder and preservation of optimized pan bread treated by gamma irradiation during storage, Preventive nutrition and food science, 17, 53-63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. NRC. 2001. Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle. 7th ed. National Academies Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  9. Old C A, Oltjen J W, Miller J R, Ohanesian N, Hinders R G, Vogt W, Sapienza D A. 2016. Reliability of in vivo, in vitro, in silico, and near infrared estimates of pure stand alfalfa hay quality: Component degradability and metabolizability of energy, The Professional Animal Scientist, 32, 470-483.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Tan Z, Wang C, Yi Y, Wang H, Li M, Zhou W, Li F. 2014. Extraction and purification of chlorogenic acid from ramie (Boehmeria nivea L. Gaud) leaf using an ethanol/salt aqueous two-phase system, Separation and Purification Technology, 132, 396-400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Wang B, Zhao F Q, Zhang B X, Liu J X. 2016. An insufficient glucose supply causes reduced lactose synthesis in lactating dairy cows fed rice straw instead of alfalfa hay, Journal of Animal Science, 94, 4771-4780.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qiuzhong Dai
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zhenping Hou
    • 1
  • Shuai Gao
    • 2
  • Zhicai Li
    • 2
  • Zhongshan Wei
    • 3
  • Duanqin Wu
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Bast Fiber CropsChinese Academy of Agricultural SciencesChangsha CityPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Hunan Institute of Animal Science and Veterinary MedicineChangshaPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Hunan Deren Husbandry Technologies Co. LtdChangshaPeople’s Republic of China

Personalised recommendations