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Crop Science Abstract - Forage & Grazinglands

Intake and Digestibility of Big Bluestem Hay and Baleage


This article in CS

  1. Vol. 52 No. 5, p. 2413-2420
    Received: Feb 23, 2012

    * Corresponding author(s): joe_burns@ncsu.edu
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  1. J. C. Burns *a and
  2. D. S. Fisherb
  1. a USDA-ARS and Dep. Crop Science and Dep. Animal Science, North Carolina State Univ., Raleigh, NC 27695
    b USDA-ARS Retired, Watkinsville, GA 30677. Cooperative investigation of the USDA-ARS and the North Carolina ARS, Raleigh, NC 27695-7642. The use of trade names does not imply endorsement by USDA-ARS or by the North Carolina ARS of the products named or criticism of similar one not mentioned


Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi Vitman) has potential to be a source of preserved forage for the mid-Atlantic Region. This 3-yr study compares its preservation as hay, direct-cut (DC) baleage, and wilted (WT) baleage when harvested in the late-boot to heading stage. The DC baleage averaged 373 g kg−1 dry matter (DM) and WT averaged 536 g kg−1 DM. The DC baleage had a pH of 5.2 vs. 5.6 (P = 0.06) for the WT. Steer (Bos taurus) intakes of the DC and WT baleage were similar (1.72 kg per 100 kg body weight) and greater (P = 0.07) than intake of hay (1.52 kg per 100 kg body weight). Apparent total tract DM digestibility was greater (P = 0.03) for hay (545 g kg−1) than the similar (504 g kg−1) baleage treatments. Steers selected a diet with greater in vitro true DM disappearance (71 g kg−1) and not altered by preservation method. Rumination chews per day and chews per minute and total number of boluses per day were greater (P ≤ 0.10) for DC baleage, reflecting its greater (P = 0.07) DM intake. Big bluestem dried rapidly providing an advantage for conservation in humid regions. Forage cut by 0900 h reached 800 g kg−1 DM by 1700 h when tedded and by 1100 h the second day in narrow swath. Forage cut at 1700 h reached 800 g kg−1 DM by 1500 h the next day when tedded but not until 1100 h the third day in narrow swath. Big bluestem harvested at early heading is of moderate quality when preserved as hay or DC baleage and dries rapidly giving it a role in beef production systems in the humid mid-Atlantic Region.

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Copyright © 2012. Copyright © by the Crop Science Society of America, Inc.