The extents and sites of digestion of organic matter (OM), and its constituent watersoluble carbohydrates, organic acids, pectin, cellulose, hemicellulose and crude protein have been studied in sheep prepared with re-entrant duodenal cannulas and fed four fresh herbage diets, Ruanui perennial ryegrass, Tama Westerwolds ryegrass, Pitau white clover and Fakir sainfoin, at each of two levels of intake.
The water-soluble carbohydrate, organic acids and pectin of all diets were almost completely digested within the rumen. Some 10% of water soluble carbohydrate reached the duodenum on each diet, though this may not have been of dietary origin. Only on legume diets, where pectin concentration was higher, did measurable amounts of pectin reach the intestine, accounting for some 5% of the pectin.
Hemicellulose and cellulose digestibilities differed between diets, being lowest for sainfoin, and next lowest for clover. Between 79 and 94% of digestible hemicellulose was digested in the stomach, but diet and intake had no significant effect on this partition. Of the digestible cellulose, 87–97% was digested in the stomach.
Digestibility of N was lowest for sainfoin and highest for Tama ryegrass. There were no significant differences between herbage species or intake in the percentage of digested N digested in the stomach or intestines. The tannin contained in sainfoin had no effect on nitrogen digestion.
Data from this and other studies reported in the literature were examined as a basis for establishing prediction equations whereby the partition of digestion of the major carbohydrate and nitrogenous constituents in stomach and intestines might be estimated from data obtainable from standard digestibility trials. Regressions were developed for predicting the amounts of OM, cellulose, and hemicellulose digested in the stomach. There are not yet enough suitable data available to predict the amount of nitrogen entering the small intestine.