Molle, Giovanni and Decandia, Mauro and Giovanetti, Valeria and Cabiddu, Andrea and Fois, Nicola and Sitzia, Maria (2009) Responses to condensed tannins of flowering sulla (Hedysarum coronarium L.) grazed by dairy sheep: Part 1: Effects on feeding behaviour, intake, diet digestibility and performance. Livestock Science, Vol. 123 (2-3), p. 138-146. ISSN 1871-1413. Article.
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The concentration of condensed tannins (CT) in sulla (Hedysarum coronariun L.) is moderate and overall regarded as beneficial. However, the intake of this forage can reduce diet digestibility, particularly during flowering phase. An experiment was run to assess the effect of CT on feeding behaviour, intake, diet digestibility and performance of dairy sheep rotationally grazing sulla at flowering phase. Twenty-four late-lactating sheep were blocked in two homogeneous groups and submitted to the following treatments: i) twice daily drenching with 200 g/day of a 50% w/v water solution of an anti-tannic substance, polyethylene glycol, group PEG; ii) twice daily drenching with 200 g/day of water, group CON (Control group). All the sheep rotationally grazed as a flock two sulla plots from April to June (8 weeks in total). Sward height, herbage mass, botanical and chemical composition of the herbage were measured at the beginning and the end of each grazing period. The feeding behaviour (3 sheep per group) was continuously monitored for 24 h in 6weeks using the IGER behaviour recorders. Herbage DM intake (DMI), dietary DM digestibility (DMD) and apparent CP digestibility (CPD) were estimated on 8 sheep per group by the n-alkane method. On average, PEG group had longer total grazing (503±12 vs 460±12 min, P < 0.05) and eating time (425±13 vs 391±13 min, P < 0.07) than CON group. Moreover PEG group showed shorter inter-meal intervals (41±3 vs 52±3, min, P < 0.05) and higher number of daily meals than CT-exposed group (24±1 vs 19±1 min, P < 0.01). The herbage DMI was not affected by the treatment whereas DMD (74.60±3.48 vs 58.30±3.01%), and CPD (60.14±4.83 vs 38.21±4.83%) were both increased by PEG administration (P < 0.05) confirming the negative effect of sulla CT on these variables. Milk yield tended to be higher in PEG than CON (1331±45 vs 1205±59ml, P < 0.11). Milk protein content was similar between groups while milk fat content was higher in CON than PEG ewes (6.61±0.15 vs 6.11±0.15%, P < 0.05), being the reverse true for milk urea (46.04±1.27 vs 53.04±0.76%, P < 0.001). To conclude, this experiment shows that when sulla is grazed at flowering as monoculture, dietary CT can exert negative effects on DM and CP apparent digestibility, in this study partially counterbalanced by a better metabolic.
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