The digestive efficiency of deer, goats and sheep fed on chaffed lucerne hay was compared during summer (S) and winter (W). VFI, rumen pool size and rumen ammonia concentration showed seasonal cycles in red deer, with maximum values in S and minimum values in W, whereas rumen FOR showed lower values in S than in W, especially for particulate matter. Despite an increase in VFI, deer were thus able to maintain DM and fibre digestibility in S, due to simultaneously increasing rumen size and reducing outflow rate. Goats showed higher fibre digestibility relative to sheep, associated with a larger proportion of small particles in rumen digesta. Goats also had the highest rate of rumen ammonia production. Relative to goats and sheep, deer showed very low levels of VFI and rumen pool size in W, emphasising the importance of understanding the factors controlling winter inappetence in red deer, whilst the superior fibre digesting capability of goats suggests they could be most efficiently used to utilise low quality fibrous feeds.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 49, , 297-302, 1989
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