Methane emissions, feed intake, and performance of finishing beef cattle offered maize silages harvested at 4 different stages of maturity

E. J. Mc Geough, P. O'Kiely*, P. A. Foley, K. J. Hart, T. M. Boland, D. A. Kenny

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

This experiment aimed to quantify the methane emissions and intake, digestibility, performance, and carcass characteristics of finishing beef cattle offered maize (Zea mays) silages harvested at 1 of 4 sequential stages of maturity and to relate these values to those obtained from animals offered an ad libitum concentrate-based diet. Sixty continental crossbred steers with a mean initial BW of 531 kg (SD 23.8) were blocked (n = 12 blocks) according to BW and allocated from within block to 1 of 5 dietary treatments in a randomized complete block design: maize silage harvested on September 13 (DM = 277 g/kg), maize silage harvested on September 28 (DM = 315 g/kg), maize silage harvested on October 9 (DM = 339 g/kg), maize silage harvested on October 23 (DM = 333 g/kg), and ad libitum concentrates (ALC). Diets based on maize silage were supplemented with 2.57 kg of concentrate DM daily, and ALC diets were supplemented with 1.27 kg of grass silage DM daily. Silage and total DMI were greater (P = 0.004) with maize silage harvested on September 28 than with any other treatment, which in turn did not differ. Advancing maize maturity at harvest did not affect BW or carcass gain, with the ALC diet exhibiting greater (P = 0.036) rates of carcass gain than any of the maize silage-based treatments. Apparent in vivo digestibility, determined using the AIA indigestible marker technique, was not affected by harvest maturity, with no linear or quadratic trends being identified. Digestibility of DM from the ALC diet was greater (P <0.001) than with any of the maize silage treatments. Starch digestibility did not differ across maize silage maturities; however, a linear (P = 0.009) decrease in NDF digestibility was observed. Methane emissions, (g/d) measured using the sulfur hexafluoride tracer technique, were not affected by maize silage maturity. Methane emissions relative to DMI tended (P = 0.05) to decline with advancing maize silage maturity, with a similar decline observed when methane was expressed per kilogram of carcass gain. Advancing maize maturity did not result in significant linear or quadratic responses in methane output proportional to GE intake. The ALC diet resulted in less methane output than the maize silage treatments irrespective of the unit of expression. In conclusion, advancing maize harvest maturity did not affect beef cattle performance but reduced methane output relative to DMI and carcass gain. Cattle offered ALC exhibited greater rates of BW gain and less emission of methane compared with cattle offered any of the maize silage treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1479-1491
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Volume88
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010

Keywords

  • maize (corn)
  • maturity
  • methane
  • sulfur hexafluoride
  • CARCASS CHARACTERISTICS
  • cattle
  • GRASS-SILAGE
  • WHOLE-CROP WHEAT
  • NUTRITIONAL-VALUE
  • FORAGE MAIZE
  • ACID-INSOLUBLE ASH
  • CORN-SILAGE
  • DAIRY-COWS
  • RUMINAL METHANOGENESIS
  • NITROGEN-UTILIZATION
  • growth

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