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Effects of diet quality and age of meat goat wethers on early subsequent growth while grazing wheat forage

A. L. Goetsch, G. Detweiler, T. Sahlu, R. Puchala, R. C. Merkel, and S. Soto-Navarro

Small Ruminant Research 51:57-64. 2004.

Annual wheat is a major source of nutrients for many ruminants in the south-central US, including a significant number of meat goats. However, performance of cattle and sheep in the first few weeks of wheat grazing is lower than expected based on concentrations of chemical constituents such as crude protein and neutral detergent fiber. Responsible factors have not been identified, although possible ones include digestive upset associated with an abrupt transition to highly digestible forage, low herbage mass and time required for adaptation by the ruminal microflora or tissues or organs, such as the digestive tract and liver, and tissues sensing the taste and texture of wheat forage. Therefore, 36 meat goat wethers (3/4 Spanish and 1/4 Boer), born in the previous Spring (initial age and BW of 8.5 months and 17 ± 0.6 kg) or Fall (initial age of 2.5 months and 13 ± 0.8 kg), were used to determine effects of ad libitum consumption of different quality diets and age on early subsequent growth while grazing wheat forage. The experiment was 14 wk long, with 9 wk in the winter consuming prairie hay (5% CP and 71% NDF) supplemented with 0.125% BW of soybean meal (PH), alfalfa pellets (AP), or a 70% concentrate diet CD), and 5 wk in the spring grazing wheat forage. An obvious period of adaptation to grazing of wheat forage after consuming ad libitum different diets on pasture in the winter was not apparent with 3/4 Spanish wethers less than 1 year of age. The nature of diets consumed ad libitum did not impact subsequent growth, regardless of age, when grazing wheat forage. Overall ADG was greater in Period 2 when grazing wheat forage than earlier in Period 1, which contributed to greater differences in body composition, notably fat concentration, between wethers at approximately 5.5 vs 11.5 months of age than earlier at 4 vs 10 months.


 

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