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Apparent digestibility, rumen fermentation and nitrogen balance in Tibetan and fine-wool sheep offered forage-concentrate diets differing in nitrogen concentration

  • J. W. ZHOU (a1) (a2), J. D. MI (a2) (a3), A. A. DEGEN (a4), X. S. GUO (a2) (a3), H. C. WANG (a1) (a2), L. M. DING (a2) (a3), Q. QIU (a3) and R. J. LONG (a1) (a2) (a3)...


A comparative study of the effect of dietary nitrogen (N) content [Low: 11·0; Medium-Low (MLow): 16·7; Medium-High (Mhigh): 23·1; High: 29·2 N g/kg dry matter (DM)] on apparent digestibilities, rumen fermentation and N balance was conducted in coarse wool Tibetan sheep and Gansu Alpine fine-wool sheep at Wushaoling in the northeast of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. It was hypothesized that responses would differ between breeds and that responses would favour Tibetan over fine-wool sheep at low N intakes. Eight wethers [four Tibetan sheep and four fine-wool sheep, 20–24 months old; body weight ± standard deviation was 52 ± 3·2 kg] were used in two concurrent 4 × 4 Latin square designs. Dry matter, organic matter, neutral detergent fibre and acid detergent fibre digestibilities were higher in Tibetan than fine-wool sheep when fed the Low, MLow and High N diets while N retention was higher when the animals were fed the Low and MLow N diets. Tibetan sheep had a higher rumen pH than fine-wool sheep; however, total volatile fatty acids were similar between breeds. Molar proportions of acetate were higher but propionate and butyrate lower in Tibetan than fine-wool sheep. In addition, Tibetan sheep had higher concentrations of ruminal free amino acid-N and soluble protein-N than fine-wool sheep. Plasma and saliva urea-N concentrations were higher in Tibetan than fine-wool sheep when supplied with the Low N diet. It was concluded that Tibetan sheep were better able to cope with low N feed than fine-wool sheep because of the higher N retention and higher DM and fibre digestibilities with Low and MLow diets.


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