Soil Science Society of America

Intake and digestibility of improved selections of tall fescue and orchardgrass hays

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Improved cool-season grass cultivars may add production potential to ruminant enterprises across the North–South transition zone. Quality among hays of ‘MaxQ’ (‘Jesup’ with novel endophyte), HM4 (‘HiMag’ with novel endophyte No. 4) and ‘Cajun’ (without endophyte) tall fescues [Lolium arundinaceum (Schreb.) Darbysh.] and ‘Persist’ orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.) was evaluated. Forage was harvested in the flag-leaf stage in three of 4 yr and a regrowth (late flag-leaf to heads-emerging stage) in 1 yr. Goats (four trials) consumed MaxQ, HM4, and Persist similarly (P = 0.12; mean = 2.49 kg 100–1 kg body weight [BW]) and Cajun least (P < 0.01; mean = 1.62 kg x 100–1 kg BW). Apparent digestibility was similar among tall fescues (P  0.07; mean = 609 g kg–1), but MaxQ and Cajun were greater than Persist (P  0.05; mean = 610 and 623 vs. 582 g kg–1). Digestible dry matter intake (DMI) was similar among MaxQ, HM4, and Persist (P  0.09; mean 1.49 kg 100–1 kg BW). Steers (three trials and Cajun not evaluated) consumed more Persist than MaxQ (P = 0.01; 2.40 vs. 2.14 kg 100–1 kg BW) or HM4 (P = 0.01; 1.98 kg 100–1 kg BW). MaxQ had greater apparent digestibility than HM4 (P = 0.01) or Persist (P = 0.04; 626 vs. 585 vs. 597 g kg–1, respectively) but digestible DMI of MaxQ and Persist was similar (P = 0.12; mean = 1.39 kg 100–1 kg BW). Improved tall fescue cultivars, with novel endophyte, offer the ruminant producer a cool-season forage of similar quality as orchardgrass for their enterprise.

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