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This article in CS

  1. Vol. 39 No. 6, p. 1873-1880
    Received: Dec 8, 1998

    * Corresponding author(s): owensv@ces.sdstate.edu
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Protein Degradation and Fermentation Characteristics of Red Clover and Alfalfa Silage Harvested with Varying Levels of Total Nonstructural Carbohydrates

  1. V. N. Owens *a,
  2. K. A. Albrechtb,
  3. R. E. Muckc and
  4. S. H. Dukeb
  1. a Plant Science Dep., South Dakota State Univ. Box 2207A, Brookings, SD 57007 USA
    b Dep. of Agronomy, 1575 Linden Dr., Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706 USA
    c US Dairy Forage Research Center, 1925 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706 USA


Extensive degradation of protein during fermentation of high-protein crops reduces efficiency of dietary N utilization in ruminants. Evidence suggests that enhanced levels of fermentable carbohydrates can reduce proteolysis. Our objective was to evaluate whether delaying daily cutting time, to allow total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC) to accumulate, would inhibit protein degradation by way of greater acid production in the silo. Red clover (Trifolium pratense L.) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) were harvested at 0600, 1000, 1400, and 1800 h in 1993, 1994, and 1995 and wilted to a dry matter (DM) content of 350 g kg−1 before ensiling. The level of TNC in fresh forage of both species increased throughout the day. Starch accounted for most of the daily change in TNC in fresh alfalfa, whereas in red clover, quantitative increases in sugar and starch impacted TNC similarly. Level of TNC at initiation of ensiling did not consistently affect protein degradation during fermentation as confirmed by generally insignificant correlation coefficients. The extent of proteolysis in the silo was consistently greater in alfalfa than red clover. Silage pH typically decreased and starch increased as cutting time was delayed from 0600 to 1800 h. While the extent of proteolysis was largely unaffected by inherent increases in TNC, lower silage pH and higher starch concentrations indicate that silage from the afternoon cuttings may be better preserved and higher in quality.

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