The objective of this study was to compare warm-season annual grasses to cool-season perennial (CSP) grasses for ruminal nutrient digestibility and N metabolism in a dual-flow continuous culture fermentation system. Dietary treatments were 1) fresh alfalfa, 2) CSP grasses and legumes, 3) brown-midrib sorghum-sudangrass (BMRSS), and 4) teff grass from an organic dairy production system. Eight dual-flow continuous culture fermenters were used during two consecutive 10-d periods consisting of 7 d for stabilization followed by 3 d of sampling. Fermenter samples were collected on days 8, 9, and 10 for analysis of pH, NH3-N, and VFA. Apparent DM, OM, NDF, and ADF digestibility were on average lesser (P < 0.05) in CSP grasses and legumes and warm-season annual grasses compared with alfalfa. True DM and OM digestibility were lesser (P < 0.05) for CSP grasses and legumes and warm-season annual grasses compared with fresh alfalfa. Total VFA were not affected (P > 0.05) by forage. The NH3-N concentrations were highest (P < 0.05) with alfalfa compared with the other CSP grasses and legumes and warm-season annual grasses. CP digestibility was not affected (P > 0.05) by forage treatment. Flow of NH3-N was greatest (P < 0.05) for alfalfa, reflecting the greatest NH3-N concentration. Flow of total N was greatest (P < 0.05) for alfalfa, intermediate for teff, and lowest for CSP grasses and legumes and BMRSS. Flows of bacterial N, efficiency of bacterial N, non-NH3-N, and dietary N were not affected (P > 0.05) by forage source. Overall, fermentation of warm-season grasses was similar to the cool-season grasses and legumes which indicate dairy producers may use warm-season grasses without concerns about negative impact on rumen health.
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- Continuous culture fermentation