Effect of qualitative feed restriction on energy metabolism and nitrogen retention in sheep
Periodic restrictions in feed quality and quantity is an important phenomenon in regions where animal production should bridge the gap between periods of forage production separated by a dry season. Eighteen Swifter male lambs, weaned at the age of ca. three months, were used to quantify effects of feed quality restriction and realimentation on changes in energy and nitrogen metabolism. The diet consisted of grass straw (17 MJ of gross energy [GE] and 46 g crude protein [CP] per kg dry matter [DM]) on an ad libitum basis and 35 g/kg0.75/d mixed concentrates (16.5 MJ of GE and 173 g CP per kg DM). At the age of ca. 3.5 months the animals were randomly divided into six blocks, based on live weight, according to a randomized complete block design. Within each block, the animals were randomly assigned to two restricted treatments (R1 and R2) and an unrestricted control (C) treatment. Treatments R1 and R2 were subjected to feed quality restriction by withholding the concentrate for 3 and 4.5 months, respectively. A modified linear model was developed to study the effects of restriction and realimentation. The comparison between treatments was made by analyzing the data of the R1 and R2 animals as deviations from the control animal in each block. During the restriction period, restricted animals lost weight and showed negative energy (EB) and nitrogen balances (NB), whereas their intake of low quality roughage increased significantly. During the realimentation period (5 and 6 months for the R1 and R2 animal, respectively), the R1 and R2 animals grew significantly faster than the control animals. The realimented animals persisted in ingesting significantly more low quality roughage and their EB and NB were significantly greater that those of the control animals. The R2 animals needed a longer period of realimentation because of a longer period of restriction. The expression of compensatory growth was mainly related to a sustained higher grass straw (low quality roughage) intake during the realimentation periods, and a significantly greater efficiency of metabolizable energy intake. The maintenance requirement of realimented animals was significantly lower only during the initial stages of realimentation compared with the controls. It seemed as if a three months feed restriction period in weaned sheep was better than 4.5 months.