Pulina, Giuseppe and Avondo, Marcella and Molle, Giovanni and Francesconi, Ana Helena Dias and Atzori, Alberto Stanislao and Cannas, Antonello (2013) Models for estimating feed intake in small ruminants. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia, Vol. 42 (9), p. 675-690. ISSN 1516-3598. eISSN 1806-9290. Article.
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This review deals with the most relevant limits and developments of the modeling of intake of sheep and goats reared intensively and extensively. Because small ruminants are normally fed ad libitum, voluntary feed intake is crucial in feeding tactics and strategies aimed at optimal animal production. The effects of genetic, neuroendocrine, hormonal, feed and environmental factors on voluntary feed intake were discussed. Then, several mathematical models to estimate dry matter intake (DMI) were examined, with emphasis on empirical models for sheep and goats in intensive farm systems or in extensive areas under pasture or rangeland conditions. A sensitivity analysis of four models of prediction of DMI in housed lactating dairy sheep and meat sheep breeds was also presented. This work evidenced a large variability in the approaches used and in the variables considered for housed sheep and goats. Regarding the estimation of feed intake for grazing sheep and browsing goats, the accuracy of estimates based on empirical models developed so far is very low when applied out of the boundaries of the studied system. Feeding experiments indoors and outdoors remain fundamental for a better modeling and understanding of the interactions between feeds and small ruminants. However, there is a need for biological and theoretical frameworks in which these experiments should be carried out, so that appropriate empirical or mechanistic equations to predict DMI could be developed.
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