How do dairy cows chew?—Particle size analysis of selected feeds with different particle length distributions and of respective ingested bolus particles

I. Schadt ,*1 J. D. Ferguson , G. Azzaro ,* R. Petriglieri ,* M. Caccamo ,* P. Van Soest , and G. Licitra

* CoRFiLaC, Regione Siciliana, 97100 Ragusa, Italy
† University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, Kennett Square, PA 19348
‡ Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
§ Dipartimento di Scienze delle Produzioni Agrarie e Alimentari (DISPA), Catania University, Via Valdisavoia 5, 95100 Catania, Italy


Not only feed but also respective bolus particle size could alter diet efficiency and cow performance. The objective of this project was to characterize particle size of selected feeds and respective swallowed boli. Feed samples included 6 different particle length rye grass hay samples, 1 grass silage, 1 corn silage, and 1 total mixed ration (TMR). Rye grass hay samples consisted of long hay and chopped hay particles retained on the 19- (19_PSPS hay), 8- (8_PSPS hay), and 1.18-mm (1.18_PSPS hay) Penn State Particle Separator (PSPS) screens and those collected on the pan (PSPS_pan hay). A sixth hay treatment was rye grass forage cut at 50-mm lengths and dried to hay (50-mm hay). Treatments were offered to 4 nonlactating and 4 lactating cows following rumen evacuation. Swallowed boli were collected and the number of chews per gram of ingested feed dry matter was determined. Feed and bolus particles of lengths ≥5 mm were collected on a 1.6-mm screen using a horizontal wet sieving technique. This cut point was chosen, as the literature suggests that most fecal particles are shorter than 5 mm. Dry matter proportions on this screen (PROP_1.6) were determined and particle lengths of retained particles were measured by image analysis. Mean particle lengths (ML) were calculated considering particles ≥5 mm in length. Boli of long hay, of 19_PSPS hay, of 8_PSPS hay, and of 50-mm hay had similar ML of 10 to 11 mm. Bolus PROP_1.6 were also similar between these treatments, ranging from 0.54 to 0.69. Bolus particle lengths and distributions of these treatments were not related to respective hay particles. Bolus of 1.18_PSPS hay had PROP_1.6 of 0.51 and a smaller ML of 8 mm. The PSPS_pan hay had PROP_1.6 of only 0.33, but was still chewed intensely. Apparently, little particle size reduction occurred when cows ate the TMR or the silages. Feed and respective bolus PROP_1.6 were as follows: 0.66 and 0.59 in grass silage, 0.52 and 0.55 in corn silage, and 0.44 and 0.38 in the TMR. Feed and respective bolus ML were as follows: 13.8 and 11.6 mm in grass silage, 12.0 and 11.2 mm in corn silage, and 13.1 and 12.5 mm in the TMR. Rye grass hay particles retained on PSPS screens ≥8mm, with ML of at least 25 mm were longer compared with TMR particles, but respective bolus particles were shorter. Bolus particle size is not associated with the size of large feed particles chewed to a constant size that is appropriate for deglutition. This size may be related to feed chemical composition.

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Iris Schadt