Metabolism trials were conducted with entire male pigs (average initial weight 44·4 ± 0·2 kg) to determine the apparent digestibility of the major chemical components of diets containing 0·05, 0·10, 0·15 and 0·20 cell-wall material (determined as neutral detergent fibre) from lucerne leaf meal, when added to a constant daily allowance of a semi-synthetic basal diet. Concurrent rate of passage studies were also carried out.
Increasing the proportion of cell-wall material in the diet resulted in a linear decrease in the apparent digestibility of dry matter, crude protein and ether extract and the apparent digestibility and metabolizability of gross energy. Daily nitrogen retention (g) increased linearly with an increasing proportion of cell-wall material in the diet. Coefficients of apparent digestibility and cell-wall material fractions did not differ significantly with changes in the dietary proportions.
Although the rate of passage of digesta was slower (F < 0·001) in animals fed the diets containing 0·05 and 0·10 cell-wall material than in those fed the two diets with higher proportions, it did not appear to be a major factor contributing to the observed decline in the apparent digestibility of dietary chemical components as the proportion was raised.
Increase in dietary proportion of cell wall material was associated with marked linear increase in weight and/or length of various segments of the gastro-intestinal tract.