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

The effects of genotype, age, pregnancy, lactation and rumen characteristics on voluntary intake of roughage diets by cattle

RA Hunter and BD Siebert

Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 37(5) 549 - 560
Published: 1986


The effects of genotype, age and liveweight, pregnancy and lactation on the voluntary feed intake by cattle of roughage diets of different qualities were studied in a number of experiments. The diets ranged from poor quality (low-nitrogen, high-fibre) spear grass (Heteropogon contortus) hay on which intakes were low ( 1 1 g DM/kg liveweight (LW)) to good quality lucerne (Medicago sativa) hay (26 g DM/kg LW). On the poorest-quality diet, differences in intake between Bos taurus and Bos indicus were not significant. However, on the higher quality diets Herefords (Bos taurus) ate significantly (P < 0.05) more than Brahmans (Bos indicus). In addition, as the quality of the diet improved from speargrass through to lucerne, the breed difference in favour of the Herefords became progressively greater and the variability between animals progressively smaller as a proportion of intake. Another study showed that with increasing age and liveweight of steers, intake per unit body weight declined, the rate of decline being significantly (P < 0.05) greater on good-quality lucerne compared to a poor-quality speargrass diet. There was no significant difference between Aberdeen Angus (Bos taurus) and Brahman steers in the rate of decline of intake of each diet with increasing age and liveweight of the steers. Another experiment which measured intake of pregnant and lactating heifers showed that the amount of feed eaten by pregnant heifers increased with increasing liveweight in late pregnancy, with intake per unit liveweight remaining constant. Lactating cows ate 35% more on a liveweight basis than their nonpregnant, non-lactating counterparts. These results are discussed in relation to mechanisms which control intake of roughage diets in ruminants, especially those associated with energy metabolism.

© CSIRO 1986

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