Comparing relative feed value with degradation parameters of grass and legume forages

J Anim Sci. 2008 Sep;86(9):2344-56. doi: 10.2527/jas.2007-0545. Epub 2008 Apr 25.


Relative feed value (RFV) was evaluated relative to in situ degradation parameters of grass and legume forages. Early-cut alfalfa (n = 20), late-cut alfalfa (n = 26), cool-season grass (n = 11), warm-season grass (n = 4), and grass-legume (n = 20) samples were collected from duplicate hay bales submitted to the 2002 and 2003 Missouri State Fair Hay Contests. Subsamples were incubated in the rumen of 2 lactating Holstein cows for 0, 6 or 8, 12, 24, and 48 h to determine in situ degradation of DM, ADF, NDF, CP, and hemicellulose over time. Degradation data were fit to a variety of candidate models to estimate degradation parameters. Correlation coefficients between degradation parameter estimates [sorted according to forage (early-cut alfalfa, late-cut alfalfa, grass, or grass-legume)] and RFV were determined. For further comparison, correlations between NDF degradation parameter estimates and digestible DMI were determined with data from a previous study. Degradation data were best fit to a single, gamma 2-distributed pool model without a lag phase. Relative feed value was significantly correlated (P < 0.05) with potentially digestible DM and CP for early-cut alfalfa, potentially digestible DM for late-cut alfalfa, and potentially digestible DM, NDF, and hemicellulose for grass-legume. The percentage of significant correlations (10.7%) across the entire data set was low and no correlations were significant for grass. Relative feed value did not account for the variation in degradation parameters, especially for grasses. A further correlation analysis, which compared digestible DMI with degradation parameter estimates reported from another data set, revealed that digestible DMI and degradation parameter estimates were related for grass but not for alfalfa forages. These results suggest that RFV is limited by its failure to include degradation parameters.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animal Feed / standards*
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Animals
  • Cattle / metabolism*
  • Digestion / physiology
  • Female
  • Medicago sativa*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Poaceae*
  • Rumen / metabolism