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J. Dairy Sci. 104:7696–7710 © 2021, The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. and Fass Inc. on behalf of the American Dairy Science Association®. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (

Fodder beet (FB) is a source of readily fermentable carbohydrate that can mitigate early spring herbage deficits and correct the negative energy balance experienced during early lactation in pastoral dairy systems of New Zealand. However, the low-fiber and high-soluble carbohydrate content of both FB bulb and spring herbage are factors that promote subacute ruminal acidosis, impairing rumen function and limiting the marginal milk production response to supplement. In a crossover experiment, 8 Holstein Friesian × Jersey early-lactation dairy cows were used to test the effect of supplementing 16 kg of dry matter (DM) of a grazed perennial ryegrass herbage with 6 kg of DM/d of FB bulb (FBH) versus herbage only (HO) on changes in rumen function and grazing behavior. Following 20 d of adaptation to diets, DM disappearance (%) of FB bulb (FBH cows only) and herbage were measured in sacco, separately. Cows were fasted overnight, and the ruminal contents were bailed the following morning (~0930 h) again to determine the pool size of volatile fatty acids, ammonia, and particle size of digesta, as well as to estimate the rate of ruminal outflow and degradation of neutral detergent fiber. The FBH diet did not alter DM intake, milk yield, or milk solid (fat + protein) production compared with HO. Supplementation of herbage with FB reduced ruminal pH compared with HO between ~0800 h and 1300 h each day. During each period, 1 cow experienced severe subacute ruminal acidosis (pH 180 min/d) during final adaptation to the target FB allocation. The FBH diet reduced the ruminal pool of acetate and ammonia, but increased the ruminal pool of butyrate and lactate compared with HO. When fed FB, rumination and grazing time increased and grazing intensity declined compared with cows fed HO. Despite increased rumination, the comminution of large particles declined 28% between the first and second rumen bailing when cows were fed FB, and in sacco DM disappearance of perennial ryegrass declined 18% compared with cows fed HO. These results indicate that grazing dairy cows supplemented with FB (40% of daily intake) increase rumination and mastication intensity to counteract reduced ruminal degradation of ryegrass herbage due to low ruminal fluid pH.

Key words: grazing dairy cow, fodder beet, digestion, fractional neutral detergent fiber degradation, particle comminution


Fodder Beet