Analyzing the Digestibility of Ground Juniper as a Roughage in Cattle Diets
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A randomized design study with two feeding periods was used to evaluate effects of substituting ground juniper for ground alfalfa hay in steer feedlot diets on growth performance. Steers were fed in a Calan gate system for 112 d. During Period 1 (d 0-69), steers were fed a 70% concentrate diet that differed only by roughage source; juniper replaced 0, 33, 66 or 100% of the alfalfa. During Period 2 (d 70- 112), steers transitioned onto a common alfalfa-based 90% concentrate. As juniper increased in the diet, daily DMI linearly decreased (P < 0.01) on d 14, 28, 42, 56, and 70, but Period 2 DMI was similar. As juniper increased in the diet, ADG linearly decreased (P < 0.01) on d 14 and 42, tended to linearly decrease (P = 0.09) on d 28, and tended to quadratically decrease (P = 0.07) on d 56. Nutritional composition and digestibility characteristics of the roughage portion of diets were evaluated. In general, as percentage of juniper increased, a reduction in digestibility and increases in lignin were observed. Overall, replacing alfalfa with ground juniper did not appear to negatively affect steer health as assessed by daily visual appraisal and blood serum characteristics. Results suggested that replacing 66% to 100% of alfalfa in steer diets with ground juniper would not be economical at the price of alfalfa observed during this trial. However, when assessing cost/kg of BW gain over the entire trial, including 10% juniper should be considered economically viable.