S. 24 perennial ryegrass, containing 2·9 g nitrogen/100 g D.M.>, was conserved by freezing (to represent the fresh material) or by drying. Three dehydration treatments were imposed, comprising low temperature (inlet temperature 145 °C) high temperature (inlet temperature 900 °C) or oven drying (100 °C for 18 h) and in addition part of the high temperature dried grass was treated with formalin (1 g/100 g crude protein) prior to feeding.
The digestion of the energy and nitrogen components of all diets was investigated using sheep fitted with re-entrant cannulae at the proximal duodenum and terminal ileum.
Dehydration and formalin of the grass reduced nitrogen solubility and apparent energy and nitrogen (P < 0·001) digestibilities but led to increased quantities of nitrogen entering the small intestine (P < 0·01) compared with the frozen diet. A significant relationship describing nitrogen transformations was established: Y = 165–1·13X (r = –0·98, P < 0·001), where Y is g nitrogen entering the small intestine per 100 g N consumed and X is dietary nitrogen solubility. All dried diets showed increased losses of nitrogen within the small intestine compared with the frozen diet, the largest values being observed on the oven-dried and formalin-treated diets.
Neither total VFA production within the rumen nor overall cellulose digestibility was influenced by dehydration, but on the formalin-treated diet there was a marked shift of cellulose digestion from the rumen to the caecum and colon compared with the other diets, associated presumably with the large reduction in protein solubility on this diet.
Dehydration improved the efficiency of conversion of ruminally digested energy to VFA energy within the rumen, and in relation to the nature of the total absorbed nutrients a significant relationship was established:
Y = 30·97–0·22X (r = –0·98; P < 0·001),
where Y is g digestible crude protein lost in the total intestines per 100 g digestible organic matter intake and X is dietary nitrogen solubility.