The influence of grass silage-to-maize silage ratio and concentrate composition on methane emissions, performance and milk composition of dairy cows

K. J. Hart*, J. A. Huntington, R. G. Wilkinson, C. G. Bartram, L. A. Sinclair

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is well-established that altering the proportion of starch and fibre in ruminant diets can alter ruminal and post-ruminal digestion, although quantitative evidence that this reduces enteric methane (CH4) production in dairy cattle is lacking. The objective of this study was to examine the effect of varying grass-to-maize silage ratio (70 : 30 and 30 : 70 DM basis), offered ad libitum, with either a concentrate that was high in starch or fibre, on CH4 production, intake, performance and milk composition of dairy cows. A total of 20 cows were allocated to one of the four experimental diets in a two-by-two factorial design run as a Latin square with each period lasting 28 days. Measurements were conducted during the final 7 days of each period. Cows offered the high maize silage ration had a higher dry matter intake (DMI), milk yield, milk energy output and lower CH4 emissions when expressed per kg DMI and per unit of ingested gross energy, but there was no difference in total CH4 production. Several of the milk long-chain fatty acids (FA) were affected by forage treatment with the most notable being an increase in 18:0, 18:1 c9, 18:2 c9 c12 and total mono unsaturated FA, observed in cows offered the higher inclusion of maize silage, and an increase in 18:3 c9 c12 c15 when offered the higher grass silage ration. Varying the composition of the concentrate had no effect on DMI or milk production; however, when the high-starch concentrate was fed, milk protein concentration and milk FAs, 10:0, 14:1, 15:0, 16:1, increased and 18:0 decreased. Interactions were observed for milk fat concentration, being lower in cows offered high-grass silage and high-fibre concentrates compared with the high-starch concentrate, and FA 17:0, which was the highest in milk from cows fed the high-grass silage diet supplemented with the high-starch concentrate. In conclusion, increasing the proportion of maize silage in the diets of dairy cows increased intake and performance, and reduced CH4 production, but only when expressed on a DM or energy intake basis, whereas starch-to-fibre ratio in the concentrate had little effect on performance or CH4 production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)983-991
Number of pages9
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • methane
  • dairy cows
  • forage
  • SF6 tracer
  • DIET


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