Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Animal Science

First Advisor

Richard J. Grant

Second Advisor

Sidney C. Bosworth


In recent years, economic, social, and environmental factors have encouraged higher forage diets to be fed to dairy cows. Consequently, a better understanding of both the chemical and physical properties of dietary forage fiber is needed. Undigested neutral detergent fiber after 240 hours of fermentation (uNDF240) is the fiber residue remaining after 240 hours of in vitro fermentation and has only recently been defined. Physically effective neutral detergent fiber (peNDF) was defined about two decades ago and is the fraction of dietary fiber with a particle size (i.e., ≥1.18-mm screen) that stimulates chewing behavior, forms the rumen digesta mat, and is resistant to passage from the rumen. To-date, the relationship between these two dietary fiber measurements has not been evaluated. The overall goal of this thesis research was to quantitate the relationship between dietary uNDF240 and peNDF on feed intake, lactational performance, chewing behavior, and the ruminal environment of lactating Holstein dairy cows.

The focal study (Chapter 2) investigated the effects of dietary uNDF240 (low or high) and peNDF (low or high) on lactating dairy cows. The four treatments were: 1) low uNDF240, low peNDF (8.8%, 20.1%; LULP; 2) low uNDF240, high peNDF (8.9%, 21.8%; LUHP); 3) high uNDF240, low peNDF (11.4%, 18.6%; HULP); and 4) high uNDF240, high peNDF (11.6%, 22.0%; HUHP). Additionally, a new descriptive term, physically effective uNDF240 (peuNDF240) was calculated as the product of the dietary physical effectiveness factor (pef; % of particles retained on ≥1.18-mm screen with dry sieving) and uNDF240 as a percentage of dry matter (DM). This new descriptive term aimed to integrate the effects of dietary particle size and NDF (in)digestibility. The dietary peuNDF240 concentrations were 5.4% (LULP), 5.8% (LUHP), 5.9% (HULP), and 7.1% (HUHP). The LULP treatment resulted in greater dry matter intake (DMI) and energy corrected milk (ECM), as well as more favorable chewing behavior (i.e., no effect on rumination but less time spent eating) in comparison to the HUHP diet. When comparing the same two treatments, total volatile fatty acid concentration was greater, mean ruminal pH was lower, and NDF turnover rate tended to be greater for the LULP treatment. Milk fat percentage was influenced by dietary uNDF240 with the high uNDF240 diets having an elevated percentage. The LUHP and HULP treatments often did not differ in animal response variables, such as DMI, ECM, mean ruminal pH, and chewing behavior, reflecting their similar dietary peuNDF240 concentration. Importantly, by reducing peNDF of the high uNDF240 treatments, DMI increased to an amount similar to the low uNDF240 treatments.

Animal responses were consistently different between the LULP and HUHP treatments as expected: the low uNDF240 diet, chopped more finely, encouraged greater DMI than the high uNDF240 diet chopped coarsely. However, the LUHP and HULP diets with similar peuNDF240 often resulted in similar cow responses, even though the peuNDF240 was obtained differently for each diet. With these diets fed to high-producing cows, it appears that the integration of particle size and indigestibility of fiber using a peuNDF240 measurement is highly related to DMI, ECM yield, chewing behavior, and ruminal environment. In the future, this relationship may prove useful in predicting DMI of lactating dairy cows fed a range of diets differing in uNDF240 and particle size.



Number of Pages

99 p.