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Utilization of grass-silage nitrogen by growing sheep

  • Elisabeth Grenet (a1)

Summary

The digestibility, the voluntary intake and the nitrogen balance of 108 diets corresponding to 94 silages prepared from 20 fresh crops were measured in growing sheep. Series of silages were made from the same fresh forage. Each series included two controls: a direct-cut silage without additive and a direct-cut silage with formic acid, with a variable number of experimental silages with different additives.

Rumen ammonia concentration, measured on rumen-fistulated sheep, decreased when an additive was used. It increased with nitrogen intake and was inversely related to the organic-matter digestibility and the crude-fibre digestibility. It varied with the silage composition.

The crude-protein digestibility of direct-cut silages without additives was similar to or slightly higher than the crude-protein digestibility of the fresh crops. The addition of formic acid depressed the digestibility, but the addition of formaldehyde decreased it even more. The urinary nitrogen loss was higher for silages without additive than for the fresh crops and was decreased by the addition of formic acid. The addition of formaldehyde to formic acid had an additive effect.

Retained nitrogen was lower in silages without additives (12% of nitrogen intake) than in parent crops (15·7%). It increased when formic acid (15·8%) was added. The addition of formaldehyde at a low rate (1·5 l/t green fodder) to the formic acid did not increase the nitrogen retention whether expressed in g/day or as percentage of nitrogen intake, but the addition of formaldehyde at a high rate (3·5 l/t green fodder) to formic acid decreased nitrogen retention. The other additives based on cereals or whey did not improve the nitrogen balance compared with formic acid. Nitrogen retention differed according to plant species.

Retained nitrogen increased with digestible organic-matter intake and nitrogen intake. It increased with the silage water-soluble carbohydrate content. The higher the silage fermentation product content (ammonia, lactic acid, propionic acid), the lower the retained nitrogen. It appears that the nitrogen value of silages can be high provided that the silages are well preserved and that excessive protein breakdown is avoided.

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Utilization of grass-silage nitrogen by growing sheep

  • Elisabeth Grenet (a1)

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