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Rumen function in red deer, hill sheep and reindeer in the scottish highlands.


Red deer, sheep and reindeer grazing on their normal hill ranges were examined at intervals over a period of four years. Samples from the digestive tract were taken at different seasons and processed in the field. The Red deer and reindeer were killed before samples were taken; rumen samples from the sheep were taken by stomach tube, but a number of animals were also killed at different seasons to correlate stomach tube and whole rumen samples. The animals sampled were representative of the general condition of the herds. Examinations were made for parasites and any pathological conditions. In most instances parasitic infections were slight. Apparent seasonal changes were found in the compositions of the diets. The Red deer and sheep ate principally heather and grass, the proportion of heather increasing in the winter. The reindeer ate mainly grass in the summer, with lichens and grass forming the winter diet, and these animals seemed to have a higher nutritional status in the winter than did the other two species. The weights of the animals and of their rumen contents, the concentrations of rumen ammonia and volatile fatty acid, and the rates at which different dietary components were fermented are recorded. Rumen fermentation was low in winter and the diets were generally inadequate for the animals. A lack of nitrogen seemed to be a major factor. Some data on caecal contents are also given.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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