Comparison of sheep and dairy cows for in vivo digestibility of perennial ryegrass
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CitationB. Garry, F.M. McGovern, E. Kennedy, R. Baumont, T.M. Boland, M.M. Wright, M. O'Donovan, E. Lewis, Comparison of sheep and dairy cows for in vivo digestibility of perennial ryegrass, Animal, Volume 15, Issue 6, 2021, 100258, ISSN 1751-7311, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.animal.2021.100258.
AbstractSheep are often used as a proxy for dairy cows when measuring the digestibility of a feed. In recent years grassland management guidelines for ruminant animals have been re-evaluated in accordance with the progression in animal genetics and the acknowledgement that genetic potential has an influence on both feed intake and digestibility. Recommended pre-grazing herbage mass (HM) targets are now much lower with improved perennial ryegrass varieties available for grazing swards. The objective of this study was to compare the in vivo digestibility of perennial ryegrass in wether sheep and lactating dairy cows. The experimental design was selected to measure the effect of animal species (cows, sheep), sward HM measured cutting herbage at 4 cm above ground level (low: 1 700 kg DM/ha and high: 4 000 kg DM/ha) and season (Spring: Apr–May, Summer: Jul–Aug) on the digestibility of perennial ryegrass. Each HM treatment was offered to each animal within species and season for 12 d using a 2 HM × 2 period changeover Latin square design. There were eight cows and eight sheep, so there were four 2 × 2 Latin squares for each animal species (two) at each season (two), giving 64 observations. During each 12 d experimental period, the first 6 d were used for adaptation (adaptation phase) and the final 6 d were used for measurement (measurement phase). In vivo organic matter digestibility (OMD) in spring did not differ between animal species but in summer sheep had higher in vivo OMD than cows. The results described herein highlight the suitability of wether sheep as an alternative to dairy cows for determining the digestibility of perennial ryegrass in spring but not in summer. Stage of growth of the plant, which is intrinsically linked to season, should be considered as results show that digestibility in the ruminant was affected by season but not differentially affected by changing sward HM.
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