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Tethering meat goats grazing forage of high nutritive value and low to moderate mass

Patra, A. K., R. Puchala, G. Detweiler, L. J. Dawson, T. Sahlu, and A. L. Goetsch

Asian-Australian Journal of Animal Science. In Press. 2008

Twenty-four yearling Boer x Spanish goats were used in a crossover design experiment to determine effects of tethering on forage selection, intake and digestibility, grazing behavior and energy expenditure (EE) with forage high in nutritive value and low to moderate in mass. Objectives were to determine if tethered goats could be used as a model for study of unrestrained animals and to characterize tethering as a production practice. Four 0.72-ha pastures of wheat (Triticum aestivum) and berseem clover (Trifolium alexandrium) were grazed in December and January. Each pasture hosted six animals, three with free movement and three attached to a 4.11-m tether for access to a circular area of 53.1 m2. Tethering areas were moved each day. One animal of each treatment and pasture was used to determine forage selection, fecal output or grazing behavior and EE; therefore, there were eight observations per treatment. Mass of forage DM before grazing in Tethered areas averaged 1,280 and 1,130 kg/ha in periods 1 and 2, respectively. The CP concentration in ingesta was greater ((P < 0.05) 239 and 209 g/kg; SE = 8.0) and the NDF level was lower (P < 0.05) for Free vs. Tethered animals (503 and 538 g/kg; SE = 12.0); in vitro true DM digestion was similar between treatments (0.808 and 0.807 for Free and Tethered, respectively; SE = 0.0096). Intakes of DM (1,013 and 968 g/d; SE = 78.6), NDF (511 and 521 g/d; SE = 39.9) and ME (10.9 and 10.7 MJ/d; SE = 0.90) were similar between treatments, but CP intake was greater (P < 0.05) for Free vs. Tethered animals (241 and 203 g/d; SE = 17.2). There were small treatment differences in in vivo apparent digestibility of OM ((P < 0.05) 0.780 and 0.814; SE = 0.0049), CP ((P < 0.05) 0.800 and 0.817; SE = 0.0067) and NDF ((P < 0.09) 0.777 and 0.760 for Free and Tethered, respectively; SE = 0.0078). There were no treatment effects on time spent ruminating or grazing (346 and 347 min/d for Free and Tethered, respectively; SE = 42.5), but EE was considerably greater (P < 0.05) for Free vs. Tethered animals (571 and 489 kJ/kg BW0.75; SE = 8.9). In conclusion, with forage of high nutritive value and low to moderate in mass, tethering can offer a production advantage over free grazing of less energy used for activity despite similar grazing time. With forage removal considerably less than that available for grazing, effects of tethering on chemical composition of selected forage were small and less than needed to markedly affect digestion. Tethering may offer a means of studying some aspects of grazing by ruminants, but would not seem suitable for energy metabolism.


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