The University of Arizona

Sward and steer variables affecting feasibility of electronic intake measurement of grazers.

J.R. Forwood, A.M.B. Da Silva, J.A. Paterson

Abstract


Forage intake is perhaps the most critical parameter in understanding performance of ruminants on pasture. The Thermal Conductivity Cannula (TCC) is an animal-carried device that measures forage intake without disturbing normal grazing patterns by counting the number of boli swallowed over time. To evaluate its accuracy, studies of the effects of animal size, forage availability, quality, and species differences were conducted. In a grazing study, bolus weights of heavy (533 kg) and light (360 kg) esophageally fistulated steers were monitored on 2 different grazing systems [tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Shreb) + red clover (Trifolium sp.) season-long vs. tall fescue + red clover in spring and fall and bit bluestem (Andropogon gerardi Vit; cv. Kaw) in summer]. Boli weight differences between steer weights indicated that TCC intake estimation will require calibration for steer weight or use of uniform steers. Boli weights of heavy steers varied (P < 0.05) within (9.0 to 19.4 g) and among (19.4 to 30.2 g) forage species. That did not occur with light steers (average = 6.25). Analysis of data on a metabolic weight basis indicated that size of the oral cavity and the 'critical mass' needed to stimulate swallowing may be a factor as well as weight. Sward characteristics and quality parameters were poorly correlated with bolus weight. An indoor study using 3 steer weights (heavy-546 kg, medium-486 kg, and light-220 kg) fed orchardgrass (100%), alfalfa (100%), and orchardgrass X alfalfa hay (50/50) indicated that heavier steers always produced heavier boli but that the weight differences between steers had to be greater than 86 kg to be significantly different. Light steers produced most consistent boli weights over all feeds.

Keywords


deglutition;equipment;measurement;steers;grazing;feed intake

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