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The voluntary intake, digestibility, and retention time by sheep of leaf and stem fractions of five grasses

MA Laredo and DJ Minson

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 24(6) 875 - 888
Published: 1973


Chloris gayana, Digitaria decumbens, Panicum maximum, Pennisetum clandestinum, and Setaria splendida were each cut at three stages of growth, dried, chaffed, and separated into "leaf" and "stem" fractions using a gravity separator. The mean purity of the leaf and stem fractions were 78 and 93%. Each fraction was fed to eight sheep to determine voluntary intake and dry matter digestibility. Mean voluntary intake of leaf was 46% higher than that of stem (57.7 v. 39.6 g/kg0.75), despite a slightly lower dry matter digestibility of the leaf fraction (52.6 v. 55.8%). The higher intake of the leaf fraction was associated (r =0.74, P< 0.01) with a shorter retention time of dry matter in the reticulo-rumen (mean 23.8 v. 31.8 hr), which appeared to be caused by the large surface of the leaf fraction initially available to bacterial degradation (mean 128 v. 41 sq cm/g). Ground leaf and stem samples showed no difference in rate of digestion in vitro since structural differences had been destroyed.

The energy required to grind 1 g sample in a laboratory mill was less for leaf than stem (mean 234 v. 411 J/g) with a significant correlation between voluntary intake and grinding energy (r = –0.81). In the past a high voluntary intake has been attributed to a high bulk density, but in this study bulk density of the stem fraction was three times that of the leaf fraction and negatively correlated with voluntary intake (r = –0.70, P< 0,001).

It was concluded that different plant fractions may be eaten in different quantities, despite similar dry matter digestibilities, and that in any study of the voluntary intake of roughages it is necessary to determine physical properties of the feed in addition to chemical composition.

© CSIRO 1973

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