Effects of Moringa oleifera silage on milk yield, nutrient digestibility and serum biochemical indexes of lactating dairy cows

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The cost of livestock feed is the most significant milk production expense. Alfalfa hay, a feed resource for dairy cows, is unavailable in certain tropical and subtropical regions and is considerably expensive. Therefore, it is important to evaluate other feed resources for dairy cows. Moringa oleifera (MO) is a tropical tree that is widely cultivated in Africa and India and currently available in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Different parts of this plant, especially the leaves, have nutritional, prophylactic and therapeutic properties (Sivasankari et al., 2014; Leone et al., 2015). The crude protein (CP) content of MO leaf (DM basis) is more than 250 g/kg. MO offers several advantages; for example, it is drought‐tolerant, can grow in poor soils, except those that are waterlogged (Abdul, 2007), has a high yield (43–115 tons of biomass/ha per year, with approximately 4.2–24 tons/ha per year DM;(Nouman et al., 2014) and is perennial. In addition to its high CP content, MO leaves are characterized by an adequate amino acid profile, high levels of vitamins A, D and E (Sánchez‐Machado et al., 2010; Mendieta‐Araica et al., 2011b; Kholif et al., 2015), and high concentrations of polyphenols and isothiocyanate (Tumer et al., 2015).
Studies have evaluated the effects of using fresh, dried or cut MO leaves as supplements or substitutes for conventional feeds of lactating ruminants. The results revealed that, compared to elephant grass or Brachiaria brizantha hay, MO leaves (fresh or ensiled) increased milk yield and nutrient digestibility without affecting milk composition (Sánchez et al., 2006; Mendieta‐Araica et al., 2011a). Additionally, Kholif et al. (2015) observed that MO leaves increased feed intake and milk yield, enhanced nutrient digestibility and modified the milk fatty acid profile of lactating goats.
Even though MO is a high‐quality animal feed, it has some limitations. MO has a spicy taste that directly affects feed intake and milk flavour (Mendieta‐Araica et al., 2011a). Even though fast‐drying and ensiling processes may minimize this problem, MO has a high moisture content (150–200 g/kg DM), which may increase the costs associated with fast‐drying processes. Additionally, MO may become mouldy during direct ensiling and may require several days to wilt in the field prior to successful ensiling. To overcome these limitations, we ensiled MO leaves in earthen jars and observed that fresh MO cut into 2‐ to 3‐cm pieces and mixed with chopped oat hay (425:575 on a DM basis) ensured successful ensiling.
However, there is little information about the use of ensiled MO and oat hay in dairy cows at middle and late stages of lactation and lacks knowledge in the literature about feeding MO forage substitute for high‐quality forage grass in dairy cows as demonstrated in this study. Therefore, the objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of feeding an ensiled mixture of MO and oat hay substitute for a part of high‐quality alfalfa hay and maize silage on the milk yield, nutrient apparent digestibility and serum biochemical indexes of dairy cows at middle and late stages of lactation.
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