Appropriate level of alfalfa hay in diets for rearing Simmental crossbred calves in dryland China

Objective: In dryland areas of China, alfalfa hay (AH) is a possible substitute for concentrate feed for beef cattle. To evaluate the potential benefits of this substitution, we studied the effect of the ratio of AH intake to total dry matter (DM) intake on average daily body-weight gain (ADG), dietary energy utilization status, and economic benefit in Gansu province. Methods: In each of two feeding trials in 2016 (trial 1 [T1], July 3 to 17; trial 2 [T2], August 15 to September 23), crossbred male Simmental calves were allocated to low AH (LA), medium AH (MA), and high AH (HA) feeding groups (n = 4 per group). The target ADG was set as 1 kg for both trials. In a one-way-layout design based on conventional feeding practices in the province, calves received diets containing the different AH amounts, with a constant ratio of corn stover:total DM and decreasing rations of concentrate feed proportional to the increase in AH. Calves in T1 received AH at 15% (T1-LA), 23% (T1-MA), or 31% (T1-HA) of their dietary DM allowances; those in T2 received 9% (T2-LA), 24% (T2-MA), or 34% (T2-HA) AH. Results: Among the T1 groups, both ADG and economic benefit were highest in T1-LA; whereas in T2, they were higher in the T2-LA and T2-MA groups than in T2-HA. Energy digestibility did not significantly differ among the groups in either trial. The dietary AH inclusion ratios of 14% in the warm season and 8% to 21% in the cool season appeared to yield optimal ADG, metabolizable energy intake, and economic benefit. Conclusion: Low-level inclusion of AH, ranging from 8% to 21%, is a practical approach for beef cattle feeding. This modified feeding regimen likely will promote increased growth performance during the fattening stage of beef steers in dryland areas of Gansu province, China.
Publication history: Accepted - 2 May 2018; Published online - 24 May 2018
Alfalfa, Substitution, Economic benefit, Dryland area in China, Feeding trial
Kobayashi, N., Hou, F., Tsunekawa, A., Chen, X., Yan, T. and Ichinohe, T. (2018) ‘Appropriate level of alfalfa hay in diets for rearing Simmental crossbred calves in dryland China’, Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences, 31(12), pp. 1881–1889. doi: 10.5713/ajas.18.0089.