Feeding distillers dried grains in replacement of forage in limit-fed dairy heifer rations: Effects on growth performance, rumen fermentation, and total-tract digestibility of nutrients. Academic Article uri icon


  • The objective of this study was to determine the effects of increasing dietary concentration of distillers dried grains (DDGS) in dairy heifer rations. A 16-wk randomized complete block design study was conducted using 48 Holstein heifers [1992 d of age; body weight (BW) 2062kg] to evaluate effects of dietary treatment on dry matter (DM) intake, average daily gain, growth performance, rumen fermentation, and nutrient digestibility. Treatments were (1) 30% DDGS with the diet fed at 2.65% of BW, (2) 40% DDGS with the diet fed at 2.50% of BW, and (3) 50% DDGS with the diet fed at 2.35% of BW. The remainder of the diet consisted of grass hay and 1.5% mineral mix. Heifers were individually limit-fed using Calan gates. Heifers were weighed every 2 wk and the ration amount offered was adjusted accordingly. Frame measurements and body condition score were recorded every 2wk. Rumen fluid was collected via esophageal tubing during wk 12 and 16 for pH, ammonia N, and volatile fatty acid analysis. Total-tract digestibility of nutrients was evaluated during wk 16 using fecal grab sampling. No treatment by week interactions were found for any of the growth parameters measured, and growth parameters did not differ among treatments. Heifer DM intake linearly decreased with increasing concentrations of DDGS. Body weight and average daily gain were similar among treatments, whereas gain:feed linearly increased across treatments, with a tendency for a treatment by time interaction. As the dietary concentrations of DDGS increased, rumen ammonia N linearly increased. Acetate proportion and acetate:propionate linearly decreased as DDGS increased, whereas propionate linearly increased. There were treatment by time interactions for propionate proportion and acetate:propionate. Increasing dietary concentrations of DDGS linearly increased total-tract digestibility of DM, organic matter, and crude protein. Limit-feeding diets with greater concentrations of DDGS improved gain:feed and total-tract digestibility of DM and crude protein, and maintained frame growth without increasing body condition score. Results demonstrated that replacing forage with DDGS at up to a 50% inclusion rate in limit-fed rations can maintain heifer growth performance.

published proceedings

  • J Dairy Sci

author list (cited authors)

  • Manthey, A. K., Anderson, J. L., & Perry, G. A.

citation count

  • 12

complete list of authors

  • Manthey, AK||Anderson, JL||Perry, GA

publication date

  • September 2016