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  • Jin Gan

What Is The Ideal Forage Particle Size?

What Is The Ideal Forage Particle Size?

What is the right particle size is a tricky question. Forage particle size affects rumen function and dry matter intake (DMI). A dairy farmer's highest priority is milk production and DMI is crucial for achieving high milk production.

How Rumen Works?

  • Maximum DMI can only be reached by having optimal rumen fermentation through proper diet, mixing and feeding.

  • Rumen acts as a fermentation vat.

  • The rumen microbial population is responsible for fermentation and is sensitive to changes in rumen pH.

  • Proper pH needs to be achieved in order to increase number of microbes for better digestibility.

  • Rumination or "cud" chewing produces saliva which helps to maintain a proper pH.

Importance of Particle Size

  • Consuming too finely processed forages decreases rumination.

  • Diets with too many small particle will cause feed to spend less time in rumen, hence, less microbial digestion.

  • This will reduce digestibility and cause digestive upsets.

  • The particle size also affects rumen mat which is formed by small particles adhering to longer-stem forages that float in the rumen.

  • The attachment enables the smaller particles to float in the rumen to be properly fermented.

  • Without sufficient fiber, particles may sink into less desirable part of the rumen where it cannot be digested easily.

  • Forages with small particle size may also decreases butterfat.

  • It can also cause metabolic disorders such as ruminal acidosis.

  • Length of chop is also important as it affects fermentation in the storage structure.

  • It is recommended that drier corn silage be cut shorter to facilitate packing.

  • Particle size is important regardless of which forage you feed. However, it is even more important with highly digestible forage like BMR corn silage.

  • Due to lower lignin and higher digestibility of BMR, it is crucial to manage the rate of passage through the rumen by maintaining enough effective fiber.

  • Chopping at a longer particle size will help slow digestion and prevents upset.

  • Another important consideration in corn silage particle size is mechanical processing.

  • Silage processing can help to improve the ensiling characteristics and starch digestion by exposing corn kernel to rumen bacteria.

  • Although processing helps with nutrient utilisation, it can also reduce particle size.

  • BMR hybrids have moderately textured kernels. Hence, less aggressive processing is recommended to maintain particle size in BMR corn silage.

So What Is the Ideal Particle Size?

  • Truth is, there is no one size fit all answer.

  • It is crucial to find out what works for your dairy to optimise health and milk production.

  • Discuss and plan with your time for peak performance.

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