The accuracy of the double η-alkane technique to estimate dry matter intake (DMI) of red deer (Cervus elaphus) fed fresh cut perennial ryegrass-based pasture (Lolium perenne cv Nui) and narrow-leaved plantain (Plantago lanceolata cv Ceres Tonic) was determined in a cross-over experiment involving five adult castrated stags housed in metabolism cages. A strong positive linear relationship between actual and estimated DMI was obtained for pasture when using both C31 and C33 (C31 R2 = 0.94; P < 0.01; C33 R2 = 0.92; P < 0.01) and plantain for C31 (R2 = 0.80; P < 0.04), but not for C33 (R2 = 0.49; P < 0.19). However, the predicted DMI of deer using the η-alkane technique was underestimated up to 27.6% for deer fed ryegrass-based pasture and overestimated up to 17.2% for deer fed plantain when compared with actual DMI. The discrepancies between actual and predicted DMI could have been partly due to a difference of 26% between faecal recovery rates of odd and even-chain alkanes with pasture feeding and 12% with plantain feeding. This suggests that the η-alkane technique may not be appropriate for estimating DMI of ruminants grazing New Zealand fresh forages, especially when comparisons between forage species are required.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 65, Christchurch, 23-28, 2005
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