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Br J Nutr. 1992 Sep;68(2):349-64.

The intake, digestion and protein degradation of grazed herbage by early-weaned lambs.

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Animal and Veterinary Sciences Group, Lincoln University, Canterbury, New Zealand.


Sixty-four intact lambs and twenty-four lambs fitted with a duodenal cannula were weaned at 6 weeks of age and grazed pure species swards of either lucerne (Medicago sativa), white clover ((Trifolium repens), ryegrass (Lolium perenne) or prairie grass (Bromus catharticus) for 6 weeks. Intake and duodenal digesta flow were estimated when lambs were 8 and 12 weeks of age. Lambs grazing the two legume species grew at a similar rate, as did lambs grazing the two grass species. Legumes promoted a 38% higher growth rate than grasses. The higher growth rate of lambs grazing legumes was associated with a 36% higher digestible organic matter intake (DOMI; 29.5 and 21.7 g/kg body-weight per d for legume and grass respectively) and a 33% higher duodenal non-ammonia-nitrogen (NAN) flow (1.22 and 0.92 g/kg body-weight per d respectively). There was no species difference in the site of organic matter digestion; on average 0.56 of DOMI was apparently digested in the rumen and 0.77 of DOMI was truly digested in the rumen. There was no difference in duodenal NAN flow, relative to DOMI (average, 43 g/kg) or to organic matter apparently digested in the rumen (80 g/kg). Similarly, there was no difference in microbial N flow relative to duodenal NAN (0.50 g/g) and organic matter apparently (41 g/kg) or truly (29 g/kg) digested in the rumen. It was concluded that the higher growth rates achieved by lambs grazing legumes were due to higher intakes which increased the total quantity of nutrients supplied despite more protein being lost in the rumen of lambs consuming legumes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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