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Crop Science Abstract - FORAGE & GRAZING LANDS

Variation in Ruminant Preference for Alfalfa Hays Cut at Sunup and Sundown1


This article in CS

  1. Vol. 42 No. 1, p. 231-237
    Received: Oct 16, 2000

    * Corresponding author(s): dwight_fisher@scientist.com
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  1. Dwight S. Fisher *a,
  2. Henry F. Maylandb and
  3. Joseph C. Burnsc
  1. a USDA-ARS, 1420 Experiment Station Road, Watkinsville, GA, 30677
    b USDA-ARS, Kimberly, ID 83341
    c USDA-ARS, Dep. of Crop Science, and Dep. of Animal Science, NC State Univ., Raleigh, NC 27695


Diurnal variation in the concentration of total nonstructural carbohydrates (TNC) occurs in plants as a result of photosynthesis. Ruminants have been shown to prefer tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreber) hays cut in the afternoon but the effect of morning vs. evening cutting had not been tested in legumes. To test for diurnal variation in preference for alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), we harvested six times in the midbud stage. Harvests were paired so that each time a cutting of alfalfa was made at sundown (PM) another was made the next morning at sunup (AM). We harvested in this manner three times resulting in six hays. The hays were field dried, baled, and chopped prior to their use 3 to 6 mo after harvest. Three experiments were conducted [Exp. 1, sheep (Ovis aries); Exp. 2, goats (Capra hircus hircus); and Exp. 3, cattle (Bos taurus)] utilizing six animals in each case. During an adaptation phase, hays were offered alone as meals. In the experimental phase, every possible pair of hays (15 pairs) was presented for a meal. Data were analyzed by multidimensional scaling as well as by traditional analyses. Multidimensional scaling indicated that the animals were basing selection on at least two criteria. Variables associated with preference through multiple regression varied across experiments but significant coefficients were found between preference and nitrate, protein, carbohydrate fractions, lignin, and cellulose. Coefficients varied depending on which other variables were in the model; however, carbohydrates were associated with positive coefficients. Shifting hay mowing from early in the day to late in the day was effective in increasing forage preference as expressed by short-term dry matter intake.

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Copyright © 2002. Crop Science Society of AmericaPublished in Crop Sci.42:231–237.