The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of substituting wheat dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS) for barley grain and barley silage on intake, digestibility, and ruminal fermentation in feedlot beef cattle. Eight ruminally cannulated Angus heifers (initial BW 455 ± 10.8 kg) were assigned to a replicated 4 × 4 Latin square design with 4 treatments: control, low (25%), medium (30%), and high (35%) wheat DDGS (DM basis). The diets consisted of barley silage, barley concentrate, and wheat DDGS in ratios of 15:85:0 (CON), 10:65:25 (25DDGS), 5:65:30 (30DDGS), and 0:65:35 (35DDGS; DM basis), respectively. The diets were formulated such that wheat DDGS was substituted for both barley grain and barley silage to evaluate whether wheat DDGS can be fed as a source of both energy (grain) and fiber in feedlot finishing diets. Intakes (kg/d) of DM and OM were not different, whereas those of CP, NDF, ADF, and ether extract (EE) were greater (P < 0.01) and intake of starch was less (P < 0.01) for the 25DDGS compared with the CON diet. The digestibilities of CP, NDF, ADF, and EE in the total digestive tract were greater (P < 0.05) for 25DDGS vs. CON. Ruminal pH and total VFA concentrations were not different (P > 0.15) between 25DDGS and CON diets. Replacing barley silage with increasing amounts of wheat DDGS (i.e., from 25DDGS to 35DDGS) linearly reduced (P < 0.05) intakes of DM and other nutrients without altering (P=0.40) CP intake. In contrast, digestibilities of DM and other nutrients in the total digestive tract linearly increased (P < 0.05) with increasing wheat DDGS except for that of EE. Additionally, with increasing amounts of wheat DDGS, mean ruminal pH tended (P=0.10) to linearly decrease, and ruminal pH status decreased with longer (P=0.04) duration of pH <5.5 and <5.2, and greater (P=0.01) curve area under pH <5.8 and <5.5 without altering (P > 0.19) ruminal VFA and NH(3)-N concentrations. Results indicated that wheat DDGS can be effectively used to replace both barley grain and silage at a moderate amount to meet energy and fiber requirements of finishing cattle. However, when silage content of the diet is low (<10%), wheat DDGS is not an effective fiber source, so replacing forage fiber with wheat DDGS in finishing diets decreases overall ruminal pH status even though the rapidly fermentable starch content of the diet is considerably reduced.
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