Molle, Giovanni and Cabiddu, Andrea and Decandia, Mauro (2007) Re-visiting the nutrition of dairy sheep grazing Mediterranean pastures. Italian Journal of Animal Science, Vol. 6 (Suppl. 1), p. 235-243. ISSN 1828-051X. Article.
In the light of recent findings in sheep nutrition and behaviour, the diets of grazing dairy sheep should be based on forages encompassing a variety of complementary nutritional values and containing moderate levels of complementary plant secondary metabolites, until recently regarded as "anti-nutritional". In lactating sheep, pastures of tannin-containing legumes like sulla (Hedysarum coronarium) and chicory (Cichorium intybus) can be integrated with annual grasses for establishing sustainable artificial pastures under rainfed conditions. Diets based on these forages, while ensuring high milking performance, can mitigate the unbalance of CP to energy ratio of grazing sheep. By grazing sulla and annual or Italian ryegrass (50:50 by area) as spatially conterminal monocultures or in timely sequence (complementary grazing) sheep eat more and perform better than by grazing the ryegrass pasture only. Concentrate supplementation of lactating sheep should be preferably based on fibrous sources (soyhulls or beet pulps), particularly from mid-lactation onwards and when supplementation levels are high. Milk urea concentration is confirmedly a useful monitoring tool to balance protein nutrition and curb the waste of N at animal and system level.
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