Field bean inclusion in the diet of early-lactation dairy cows: Effects on performance and nutrient utilization

D. J. Johnston, K. Theodoridou, A. W. Gordon, T. Yan, C. P. McRoberts, C. P. Ferris

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The European livestock sector has a significant deficit of high-quality protein feed ingredients. Consequently there is interest in using locally grown protein grain crops to partially or completely replace imported protein feeds in dairy cow rations. Field bean (FB; Vicia faba) has been identified as a locally grown crop with significant potential. The current study was designed to examine the effects of FB on cow performance and nutrient utilization in the diet of early-lactation dairy cows, including high levels of FB (up to 8.4 kg/cow per day). The experiment used 72 dairy cows in a 3-treatment continuous design (from calving until wk 20 of lactation). All cows were given ad libitum access to a mixed ration comprising grass silage and concentrates [45:55 on a dry matter (DM) basis]. Concentrates offered contained either 0, 349, or 698 g of FB/kg of concentrate (treatments FB0, FB-Low, and FB-High, respectively), with FB completely replacing soybean meal, rapeseed meal, maize gluten, and wheat in the concentrate for the FB-High treatment. Following completion of the 20-wk experiment, ration digestibility, nutrient utilization, and methane (CH4) production were measured using 4 cows from each treatment. Neither silage DM intake, total DM intake, nor milk yield were affected by treatment. Cows on FB0 had a higher milk fat content than those on FB-High, and cows on FB0 and FB-Low had higher milk protein contents than did those on FB-High. Field bean inclusion increased the degree of saturation of milk fat produced. Milk fat yield, milk protein yield, and milk fat plus protein yield were higher with FB0 than with either FB-Low or FB-High. Treatment had no effect on the digestibility of DM, organic matter, nitrogen (N), gross energy, or neutral detergent fiber, whereas digestibility of acid detergent fiber was higher with FB0 than with FB-High. Neither the efficiency of gross energy or N utilization, nor any of the CH4 production parameters examined, were affected by treatment. Similarly, none of the fertility or health parameters examined were affected by treatment. The reduction in milk fat observed may have been due to the higher starch content of the FB-High diet, and the reduction in milk protein may have been due to a deficit of methionine in the diet. It is likely that these issues could be overcome by changes in ration formulation, thus allowing FB to be included at the higher range without loss in performance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10887-10902
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Dairy Science (Official journal of the American Dairy Science Association)
Early online date20 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2019


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