Methane emission, digestive characteristics and faecal archaeol in heifers fed diets based on silage from brown midrib maize as compared to conventional maize

Schwarm, A.; Schweigel-Röntgen, M.; Kreuzer, M.; Ortmann, S.; Gill, F.; Kuhla, B.; Meyer, Ulrich GND; Lohölter, Malte GND; Derno, M.

The aim of the present experiment was to compare silage prepared from maize having a brown midrib (BMR) mutation with control (CTR) maize to identify their effects on enteric methane emission, digesta mean retention time (MRT), ruminal fermentation and digestibility. In addition, the utility of archaeol present in faecal samples was validated as a proxy for methane production. Seven German Holstein heifers were fed total mixed rations with a maize-silage proportion (either BMR or CTR) of 920 g/kg dry matter (DM) in a change-over design. Heifers were fed boluses with markers to measure MRT; faeces were collected for 7 days and rumen fluid was collected on the penultimate day. Methane emission was measured in respiration chambers on one day. Data were analysed by t-test and regression analysis. DM intake did not differ between the two diets. The apparent digestibility of DM and most nutrients was unaffected by diet type, but apparent digestibility of neutral and acid detergent-fibre was higher in those heifers fed BMR than in those fed CTR. Comparisons between diets revealed no difference in particle or solute MRT in the gastro-intestinal tract and the reticulorumen. Concentrations of short-chain fatty acid and ammonia in rumen fluid and its pH were not affected by silage type. Independent of the mode of expression [l/d, l/kg DM intake, l/kg digested organic matter], methane emissions were not affected by maize-silage type, but with BMR, there was a trend towards lower methane production per unit of digested neutral detergent fibre than there was with CTR silage. Results of the present study show that feeding heifers BMR silage does not increase methane emissions despite a higher fibre digestibility as compared to CTR silage. Therefore, it is assumed that improvements in animal productivity achieved by feeding BMR silage, as some studies have reported, can be obtained without extra environmental cost per unit of milk or meat. Neither faecal archaeol content [µg/g] nor daily amount excreted [mg/d] is suitable to predict methane production in absolute terms [l per day]. However, faecal archaeol content has a certain potential for predicting the methane yield [l per kg DM intake] of individual animals.

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Schwarm, A. / Schweigel-Röntgen, M. / Kreuzer, M. / et al: Methane emission, digestive characteristics and faecal archaeol in heifers fed diets based on silage from brown midrib maize as compared to conventional maize. 2015.

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