Effects of increasing levels of refined cornstarch in the diet of lactating dairy cows on performance and ruminal pH

J Dairy Sci. 2003 Apr;86(4):1341-53. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(03)73719-9.


Our study investigated the effect of a linear increase in level of ruminally fermentable carbohydrate, at a constant level of dietary starch and fiber, on performance, microbial N yield, chewing activity, and ruminal pH of midlactation dairy cows. Eight cows (53 DIM) were assigned to four treatments in a double 4 x 4 Latin square. Diets consisted of increasing levels of refined cornstarch (0, 5.9, 11.9, and 17.9% of diet dry matter) replacing dry cracked, shelled corn so that increasing amounts of dietary starch originated from refined cornstarch. Corn gluten feed was used to balance diets for similar NDF content. The four diets averaged 17.9% CP, 27.2% NDF, 18.7% ADF, and 31.1% starch (dry matter basis). Diets were fed for ad libitum intake and had a forage to concentrate ratio of 40:60. Forage was coarsely chopped (13.7 mm mean particle size) alfalfa silage. Daily dry matter intake averaged 26.0 kg and tended (P = 0.08) to increase quadratically with increasing level of refined cornstarch. Milk production averaged 38.9 kg/d and milk fat percentage tended (P = 0.08) to decrease linearly, whereas percentage of protein increased quadratically, with increasing level of refined cornstarch. Yield of components and energy corrected milk was similar across diets. Total tract digestibility of starch increased linearly from 85.1% to 92.4% with increasing level of refined cornstarch. Microbial yield was unaffected by diet and averaged 371.1 g N/d. Time spent eating decreased linearly from 329 to 308 min/d when level of refined cornstarch was increased, but rumination time was unaffected. Ruminal concentration and proportion of acetate decreased linearly while concentration and proportion of propionate increased linearly with increasing level of refined cornstarch. Mean ruminal pH, time spent below pH 5.8 (h), and area below pH 5.8 (h x pH units/d) were unaffected by level of refined cornstarch and averaged 5.97, 8.4, and 2.9, respectively. Increasing the level of carbohydrates fermented in the rumen by replacing dry cracked corn with refined cornstarch (up to 57% of dietary starch) did not compromise rumen fermentation or affect performance of midlactation dairy cows.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle / physiology*
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / metabolism
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Digestion
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / analysis
  • Female
  • Fermentation
  • Food Handling
  • Glutens / administration & dosage
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kinetics
  • Lactation*
  • Lipids / analysis
  • Mastication
  • Medicago sativa
  • Milk / chemistry
  • Milk Proteins / analysis
  • Rumen / chemistry
  • Rumen / metabolism*
  • Rumen / microbiology
  • Silage
  • Starch / administration & dosage*
  • Starch / metabolism
  • Zea mays


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Lipids
  • Milk Proteins
  • Glutens
  • Starch