Individual dry matter intakes were measured using four groups of 16 ewes, indoors or at sparse winter grazing. In periods of varying duration (14 to 35 days) the ewe groups received 14 feedblock supplements competitively, eight trough supplements competitively or two feedblock supplements individually. In each period hay was available ad libitum. All supplements contained chromic oxide and individual supplement intakes were estimated by total faecal collection. Individual hay and total dry-matter intakes were estimated by faecal apportionment according to indigestibility of dietary components.
Metabolizable energy content (0·81 × digestible energy) of the feedblocks ranged from 7·9 to 9·2 MJ/kg dry matter compared with a value of 13·0 MJ metabolizable energy/kg dry matter for concentrates. The variation in individual supplement intake was large, irrespective of type of supplement. However the mean coefficient of intake variation for 14 feedblock supplements (0·56) significantly (P < 0·05) exceeded that (0·39) for eight trough supplements at equivalent mean dry-matter intakes.
Thus, ‘free-access’ feedblocks did not allow a more uniform supplementation than trough supplements. Supplement intake variation was higher outdoors and increased as total feedblock intake reduced.
The variation in individual hay and total dry-matter intake was lower, and generally independent of that for the supplements. Mean coefficient of variation of 0·24 and 0·22 were obtained for hay and total dry matter, respectively, based on 22 collections with competitively fed sheep.
Total daily metabolizable energy intakes of individual ewes outdoors ranged from 5 to 22 MJ per collection.