Two experiments were carried out to determine the effects of feeding grass silages differing in their water-soluble carbohydrate content, with or without red clover silage, on the efficiency of nutrient use. High-sugar grass, control grass, and red clover were ensiled in laboratory silos for use in an in vitro experiment (Exp. 1). For an in vivo experiment (Exp. 2), the same forage types were baled and ensiled. All silages were well preserved; within experiments the grass silages had similar composition, except for greater (P <0.05) water-soluble carbohydrate concentrations in the high-sugar than the control grass silage. In Exp. 1, high-sugar grass, control grass, and red clover silages were fed alone or as mixtures (30:70, 50:50, or 70:30 on a DM basis, respectively) of each grass with the red clover silage to a simulated rumen culture system. There were no significant differences in microbial N flow or efficiency of microbial protein synthesis between individual forages. However, the corresponding values for the 70:30 ratio of high-sugar grass:red clover silage were greater (P <0.05) than for the red clover silage. The value for the efficiency of N use (g of microbial N/g of feed N) was greater (0.86; P <0.05) for high-sugar grass silage than the control grass silage. In addition, the high-sugar grass:red clover silage mixtures all gave greater (P <0.05) values for the efficiency of N use than red clover silage alone; this difference was not achieved with the control grass mixture. Experiment 2 was an incomplete Latin square design conducted with 6 Here-ford x Friesian steers (163 ± 5.9 kg of BW) with rumen and duodenal cannulas fed the following 5 silage diets: high-sugar grass silage; control grass silage; high-sugar grass and red clover silage (50:50 DM basis); control grass and red clover silage (50:50 DM basis); and red clover silage. Rumen NH3-N concentration was lowest (P <0.05) with the high-sugar grass silage. Microbial N flows to the duodenum and efficiency of microbial protein synthesis were greater (P <0.05) for steers fed the high-sugar grass silage than for control grass and red clover silages, and mixing red clover with grass silages increased (P <0.05) these values compared with red clover silage alone. In both experiments, the efficiency of incorporation of silage N into microbial N was more than 20% greater (P <0.05) for high-sugar grass than for control grass silage. These data suggest that grass silage with high-sugar content provides a forage-based strategy for balancing N and energy supply and improving the efficiency of use of grass silage N in the rumen.
- nitrogen use efficiency, perennial ryegrass silage, red clover silage, rumen function, water-soluble carbohydrate