In a 12-week trial, 12 Alpine and 12 Saanen dairy goats in mid lactation were housed in individual stalls for behavioural, digestive and metabolic studies. Eight of them were fitted with ruminal cannulae. They were offered ad libitum four complete diets CR, CS, FR and FS (450 g dry matter (DM) per kg) in a 4 ✕ 4 Latin-square design. Forage: concentrate ratio was either low (C = 30: 70) or high (F = 55: 45) and starch source either rapidly (R, barley) or slowly (S, maize) degraded in the rumen.
Diet preferences were tested. DM intake, chewing activities and performance were determined. Ruminal pH and ammonia-nitrogen (NH3-N) concentrations were measured. Goats were also challenged intravenously with glucose (0·2 g/kg live weight) to assess glucose homeostasis.
CR was the most preferred diet. The level of intake differed according to the type of starch (2·2 kg DM per day of CR and FR and 2·0 kg DM per day of CS and FS). FS lowered ruminal pH significantly less than the other diets after the meal. Ruminal NH3-N concentrations were lower in goats given CR and CS than FR and FS. Goats’ resistance to a glucose challenge was not different among diets. Milk yield was 2·00, 1·85, 2·01, 1·85 kg/day on CR, CS, FR and FS respectively. Milk fat content decreased significantly with diets rich in concentrate (24 v. 26 g/kg milk) but milk protein content varied only a little.
In conclusion it appears that (1) higher forage: concentrate ratios were less preferred and decreased ruminal acidity but increased daily chewing, ruminal NH3-N and milk fat content; and (2) rapidly degraded starch increased intake, ruminal acidity and milk yield.