Among tropical forages, corn silage is largely used by farmers trying to explore the maximum genetic potential from the animals. However, other tropical forages, such as elephant-grass (Pennisetum purpureum), are more productive and therefore cheaper to use than corn silage. Our objective was to compare the in situ degradability of elephant-grass with that from corn hybrids, all harvested at four stages of maturity. The experimental design followed a randomized block design with nested subplots. Two corn hybrids: AG5011, ZN8392 were harvested with 25, 30, 35, and 40% dry matter (DM) in the whole plant, and separated in stem + leaf sheath + leaf blade (stover), and cobs. Elephant-grass was harvested with 30, 40, 50 and 60 days after a leveling cut. Dried and ground samples were incubated in nylon bags inside the rumen for 0, 6, 12, 24, 48 and 72 h to estimate the kinetics of ruminal DM and neutral detergent fiber (NDF) degradation. The advance of maturity increased the NDF and acid detergent fiber (ADF) content in elephant-grass, and reduced its DM degradability. However, maturity had little or no effect on fiber content and DM degradability of corn stover. Elephant-grass had a higher NDF degradability than corn stover, and there was no effect of maturity on NDF degradability of either elephant-grass or corn stover. Fiber degradability of elephant-grass was not worse than that of corn stover, and therefore the choice of forage should be made on economical analysis rather than assuming an intrinsic low production potential for elephant-grass based diets.
Pennisetum purpureum; corn silage; digestibility; rumen; tropical grass