Animal Science

Research Article

Digestion, rumen fermentation and circulating concentrations of insulin, growth hormone and IGF-1 in steers given maize silages harvested at three stages of maturity

D. T. Junipera1 c1, E. M. Brownea1 p1, M. J. Bryanta1 and D. E. Beevera1

a1 Department of Agriculture, University of Reading, Earley Gate, Reading RG6 6AR, UK


Advancing maturity of forage maize is associated with increases in the proportion of dry matter (DM) and starch and decreases in the proportions of structural carbohydrates in the ensiled crop. Three maize silages (286 (low, L), 329 (medium, M) and 379 (high, H) g DM per kg fresh weight) plus a concentrate formulated to give isonitrogenous intakes were offered to Holstein-Friesian steers fitted with a cannula in the dorsal sac of the rumen and a ‘T’ piece cannula in the proximal duodenum in an experiment with a cross-over design that allowed four collection periods. Nutrient flow to the duodenum was estimated using chromium-EDTA. Steers consumed approximately 0·6 kg DM per day less of diet L compared with the other two diets (P=0·026), resulting in less DM being digested (P=0·005) but digestibility did not differ between diets. Similar results were obtained for organic matter. There were no differences between diets in the intake or digestibility of neutral-detergent fibre. Intake, duodenal flow and faecal output of starch were greater for steers offered diets M and H compared with those given diet L (P<0·05). In all diets rumen digestion contributed to over 90% of total digestion of starch, although rumen digestibility declined significantly with advancing maize maturity (P=0·002). Molar proportions of acetic acid were higher in diet H (P<0·05) whilst proportions of propionic acid and n-butyric acid were higher in diets M and L. There were no significant differences between diets in mean rumen pH or ammonia concentrations. Mean circulating concentrations of insulin were higher (P=0·009) in cattle given diets L and M compared with diet H. There were no differences between diets in the mean circulating concentration of growth hormone, or the frequency, amplitude and duration of growth hormone pulses, or the mean circulating concentrations of IGF-1. Changes in forage composition that accompany advancing maize maturity affect overall silage digestion and circulating concentrations of insulin.

(Received May 14 2005)

(Accepted September 22 2005)

Key words

  • insulin;
  • IGF-1;
  • maize silage;
  • rumen fermentation;
  • somatotropin;
  • steers


c1 Email:

p1 Meat and Livestock Commission, PO Box 44, Winterhill House, Snowdon Drive, Milton Keynes MK6 1AX, UK