Weaned cross-bred lambs either grazed mature pasture or were confined to yards where they were offered material cut from ungrazed areas of the same pasture. A 1:2 mixture (on an air-dry basis) of sunflower meal and oat grain was offered for 81 days at 0, 200, 400 or 600 g/head or ad libitum. Individual estimates of intake of pasture and supplement by grazing sheep at four levels of supplementation were made on four adjacent plots.
Weight gain increased from –30 to 178 g/day in the grazing animals as supplement intake increased up to 1030 g D.M./day and from –25 to 142 g/day in the yarded animals as supplement intake increased to 1076 g D.M./day. Growth of greasy wool increased from 4·5 to 11·7 g/day for grazing animals and from 4·5 to 10·2 g/day for those kept in yards.
At levels of supplement intake below 400 g D.M./day, the intake of grazed pasture increased by up to 58% compared with unsupplemented animals. However, when the intake of supplement was increased to about 650 g D.M./day, pasture intake fell, with an estimated substitution rate of 1·1 g D.M. pasture per g D.M. supplement. At all levels of supplementation, the intake of hay by the yarded lambs was less than half the intake of herbage in the field. However, at levels of supplement intake between 300 and 500 g D.M./day, the substitution rate was similar to that measured in the grazing animals, suggesting that this is an attribute of roughage quality, rather than differential eating behaviour between grazing and yarded animals.
The wastage, w (g D.M./day), of supplement was linearly related to the amount offered, s (g D.M./day), by the equation
w = 0·263s − 38·8; R2 = 0·89
Variability in supplement intake between individual grazing lambs was not affected by the level of supplementation but the coefficient of variation of supplement intake was considerably greater than that of the intake of unsupplemented pasture. Variability in the intake of pasture increased with the level of supplementation but variability in the total intake of food was similar at each level of supplement, indicating some degree of individual compensation in the intake of the two components.