An experiment was carried out to investigate the performance of young steers given either ammoniated hay alone (TA), or supplemented daily with either 112 g fish meal (TF) or 2 kg barley (TB) or 2 kg barley-based concentrate (TC), compared with untreated hay supplemented with either urea (UU), to raise the nitrogen content of the diet to that of the ammoniated hay, or with 2 kg concentrate (UC). Serial slaughter of animals was carried out to examine the effects on body composition during the winter feeding period and subsequent grazing season.
Ammoniation of the hay significantly increased the in vivo digestibility of organic matter, acid-detergent fibre, neutral-detergent fibre and cellulose fractions (0·672 v. 0·643, 0·740 v. 0·670, 0·758 v. 0·638 and 0·826 v. 0·741, respectively). When offered with 2 kg concentrate, intake of ammoniated hay was higher than that of the untreated hay. Empty body weight gains (EBWG) during the winter period were affected by treatment (174, 225, 293, 590, 631 and 692 g/day for treatments UU, TA, TF, UC, TB and TC, respectively), and were highly correlated with total gross energy intakes (56·0, 61·0, 62·9, 74·5, 73·2 and 83·1 MJ/day, respectively). As the rate of EBWG increased, the fat proportion (g/kg EBW) at turn-out also increased. During the grazing season animals which had been on treatments UU, TA and TF showed a marked degree of compensatory growth (759, 686 and 640 g/day EBWG, respectively) compared with treatments UC, TB and TC (623, 572 and 601 g/day EBWG, respectively), and differential rates of tissue gain. This resulted in reduced, though still significant, differences in EBW, although body composition (g/kg EBW) at final slaughter was similar for all treatments. Thus, whilst short-term advantages in intake and performance can be obtained by ammoniation of hay, the benefits so achieved may not persist due to subsequent compensatory growth at pasture.