Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 March 2009
Cattle were fed four hays in mineral balance experiments. Two of the hays (Cenchrus ciliaris and Setaria sphacelala var. sericea) contained 1·8 and 1·3% total oxalates and provided above- and below-maintenance intakes of calcium respectively. These grasses contain calcium oxalate crystals. The other two hays (Aristida spp –Bothriochloa spp. mixture and Triticum aestivum) contained 0·1% oxalates, and also provided above- and below-maintenance intakes of calcium. The absorptions of calcium from the hays providing above-maintenance intakes were 51% for the high and 57% for the low oxalate hay. At below-maintenance intakes, the cattle were in negative calcium balance and calcium absorptions were 52% for the high and 64% for the low oxalate hay. While in negative calcium balance the cattle were given single doses of calcium oxalate, followed by single doses of either limestone or rock phosphate. The cattle fed S. sphacelata hay absorbed sufficient calcium from calcium oxalate to achieve positive calcium balance, although the amount absorbed was only 52% of that absorbed from limestone. The cattle fed T. aestivum hay also absorbed calcium from calcium oxalate, but in insufficient amount to result in a positive calcium balance. The amount absorbed was 47% of that absorbed from rock phosphate. The results demonstrate that in tropical grasses containing calcium oxalate crystals, the availability of calcium is about 20% lower than it is in grasses containing little oxalate. Adaptation to oxalate may improve the ability of the rumen to utilize calcium oxalate. It is suggested that the availability of calcium to cattle grazing tropical grasses should be considered to be a maximum of 50%. Neither magnesium nor phosphorus absorptions from tropical grasses were affected by oxalate.
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