Balanced feeding is an integral element for animals to exploit their genetics productive potential, while feed cost contribution in total animal production is estimated to be 60–70% (Becker 2008; Anjum and Afzal 2015). Therefore, nutritionists always focus on utilization of alternate feed resources which would be suitable for animal feeds and cost effective, as well (Beigh et al. 2017). Chemical composition of agro-industrial byproducts (wet sugarbeet or citrus pulp, corncobs and their silages) indicates these as valuable feedstuffs for ruminant nutrition. Comparatively sugarbeet pulp or citrus pulp had slightly less DM, NDF and ADF contents than green maize fodder whereas, CP (9.2%) content was higher in sugarbeet pulp. Similar to our results, previous researchers (Ali et al. 2000; Talha et al. 2002; El-Badawi et al. 2003; Lardy, 2003) reported CP (8.0 to 10.71%), EE (0.1 to 2.40%) and total ash (3.25 to 6.67%) on DM basis in sugarbeet pulp.
All silages were well preserved, as indicated by lowering of pH (3.6 to 4.2) and NH3-N (6.7 to 9.5%) in the current study. These results could be attributed to high water-soluble carbohydrates in the sugarbeet or citrus pulp, which provided as the basic substrate (Rooke and Hatfield, 2003) for fermenting bacteria population, resulted in lowering of silage pH that suppressed spoiling microbes. In good preserved silage, the acceptable pH ranges from 3.6 to 4.40 (McDonald et al. 1991; Xu et al. 2007; Gilbery et al. 2010) and NH3-N 10–15% of total N (Xu et al. 2007; Kung et al., 2018) that also supports findings of current study.
Lee et al. (2020) reported almost similar pH (3.1), NDF (24.6%) and crude ash (4.5%) in ensiled citrus pulp when compared to the citrus pulp silage composition in the current study. Anaerobic fermentation during ensiling reduced the NDF, ADF and ADL contents of maize silage compared to its crops before ensiling that was also supported by Wang et al. (2015) who found a reduction in NDF content in an ensiled whole crop corn than its crop. No silage effluent was found when wet sugarbeet or citrus pulp ensiled with ground corncobs. This might be due to high liquid absorbency ability of corncobs (Anjum and Afzal 2015) that has reduced moisture of biomass for active fermentation.
Total DM intake or DM intake as percent of BW in buffalo calves were almost same (P > 0.05) with different TMRs. This might be due to iso-nutritious (CP 12% and TDN 69%; Table 1) and palatable property of well fermented silage based TMRs. Intake is usually affected due to distinct odor of spoiled silage produced as a result of different volatile products (Kung et al. 2018). According to NARO (2009), the diets containing 12% CP and soluble or insoluble carbohydrates are sufficient for necessary ruminal microbe’s activity. Efficiency for utilization of dietary protein and carbohydrate is generally dependent on rumen ecology, especially microbial population (Wanapat et al. 2013).
In current study, the final BW, ADG and FCR tended to be higher (P < 0.05) for buffalo calves fed sugarbeet pulp silage versus citrus pulp silage or green maize fodder. However, the calves fed maize silage had similar final BW, ADG and FCR to both sugarbeet pulp silage and citrus pulp silage groups. These finding were also supported by Anderson et al. (2015) who observed no difference in ADG and gain efficiency in steers fed sugarbeet pulp versus corn silage based finishing diets. Similar to our results, El-Badawi et al. (2003) reported increased average daily gain in growing sheep when fed concentrate with sugarbeet pulp at 50% inclusion level compared to diet without sugarbeet pulp. Mojtahedi and Danesh Mesgaran, (2011) reported higher average daily gain in Holstein steers when replaced barley with sugarbeet pulp by 11, 22 and 33% levels in diets.
Apparent total-tract digestibility for DM, NDF and ADF, except CP, were highest (P < 0.05) for the TMR sugarbeet pulp silage compared to other TMRs which mirrored in increased (P < 0.05) ADG and decreased FCR (P < 0.05) in the current study. Improved nutrients digestibility with sugarbeet pulp silage might be due to the delayed in passage rate of soluble or insoluble NDF contents which ultimately increased availability for ruminal microbe’s activity and growth (El-Badawi and El-Kady 2006; Abo-Zeid et al. 2017). Previous researchers reported that in sugarbeet pulp, NDF content is digested more quickly than forage NDF (Bhatti and Firkins, 1995) that could possibly be due to higher pectin-soluble fibers (Heydari et al. 2021) and colonization of rumen microbes (Wanapat et al. 2013). Improved apparent digestibility of DM, NDF and fibre fractions for the diets containing sugarbeet pulp was also reported in dairy cows (Voelker and Allen, 2003; Huhtanen et al. 2008; Alamouti et al. 2009) and Barki lambs (Mahmoud et al., 2016). In contrast to our results, substituting sugarbeet pulp for corn silage had no effect on DM, OM, NDF and ADF digestibility in dairy cows (Naderi et al. 2016) and sheep (Boguhn et al. 2010) that could be due to difference in composition and feeding level of TMR sugarbeet pulp silage and breed.
In current study, digestibility of citrus pulp silage decreased compared to sugarbeet pulp silage or maize silage which is supported by findings of Scerra et al. (2001) who studied the effect of orange pulp silage versus oat hay based TMRs on growth rate in lambs. They suggested orange pulp silage TMR as more economical and acceptable for quality meat production. Alkire (2003) also observed improved weight gain in beef cattle fed dried citrus pulp compared to other treatments due to easily digestible cell wall of citrus pulp.
Feeding of TMR sugarbeet pulp silage in our study resulted in 4–5 g/d more faecal and urinary N excretion. Haque et al. (2021) reported that surplus N intake greater than that required for growth is excreted in the manure, mainly through urine. Overall, N balance was positive in all buffalo calves ranging from 28.11 to 31.35 g/d (P > 0.05).
On DM basis, one kg sugarbeet pulp silage based TMR had 6.73, 7.37, and 29.92% reduced price when replaced with citrus pulp silage, green maize fodder and maize silage, respectively. Meanwhile, due to low feed cost for one kg BW gain, more profit and economic return was obvious with sugarbeet pulp silage. Low-priced feed allowance and better FCR of sugarbeet pulp silage as compared to other TMRs produced the highest economic return. Therefore, economic benefit (ratio of output/input) with TMR sugarbeet pulp silage had 13.81, 32.04, and 35.79% higher effect compared to citrus pulp silage, green maize fodder and maize silage based TMRs, respectively.