Crop and Pasture Science Crop and Pasture Science Society
Plant sciences, sustainable farming systems and food quality

Spray-topping annual grass pasture with glyphosate to delay loss of feeding value during summer. II . Herbage intake, digestibility, and diet selection in penned sheep

B. J. Leury, C. Siever-Kelly, R. J. Simpson, K. L. Gatford and H. Dove

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 50(4) 465 - 474
Published: 1999


The treatment of annual ryegrass–silver grass pasture with the herbicide glyphosate at seed head emergence delayed the loss of soluble carbohydrates and improved herbage digestibility. The present study investigated whether this improvement in nutritive value had any influence on the diet preference, intake, and performance of housed sheep. Since the effects of glyphosate on digestibility were most marked in stem tissue, preference was examined not only in relation to sprayed v. unsprayed herbage, but also in terms of preference for individual plant parts. In the preference testing, sheep showed a marked preference for sprayed rather than unsprayed herbage. They also consumed more of it, such that their digestible dry matter intake from sprayed herbage was nearly twice that from unsprayed herbage. When sheep were offered different plant fractions from the control herbage, they selected against stem material and preferred leaf or seed head. By contrast, when offered fractions from the sprayed material, they preferred stem to leaf, but showed no strong preference for stem over seed head. Preference was related more to the soluble carbohydrate content of a plant part than its digestibility, and only when soluble carbohydrate contents were similar was there preference for the more digestible material. The consumption of sprayed herbage, compared with control herbage, led to higher concentrations of rumen volatile fatty acids in the period 4 h after feeding. Moreover, the feeding of these herbages over a 6-week period resulted in significant reductions in pre-feeding plasma urea and β-hydroxybutyrate concentrations. When control herbage was fed with supplements of fructose, urea, or fructose+urea, in an attempt to mimic the possible differences in nutritive value between control and sprayed herbage, the responses in rumen and blood metabolites were less marked than when sprayed herbage was fed. As a consequence of the higher nutritive value of the sprayed herbage and the higher intakes by the animals fed this material, sheep fed sprayed herbage were able to maintain weight over the feeding period, whereas those offered the control herbage lost weight at 130–150 g/day

© CSIRO 1999

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