Level of feeding and stage of maturity affects diet digestibility and protein and fat deposition in cross-bred lambs

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Abstract

Metabolizable energy intake is the key determining factor for the expression of an animal's genetic potential for growth, and current predictive growth models are not capable of accounting for all the nutritional variation that is commonly observed. The current study was designed to investigate energy transactions as lambs grow using CT scanning to assess body compositional changes at two levels of intake and two stages of maturity, and compare results to predictive equations. A pelleted diet was provided to cross-bred lambs (n = 108) at approximately 2.5 and 3.5% of liveweight (LW) in dry matter when the lambs were approximately four (31.8 ± 0.3 kg LW) and eight (40.5 ± 0.3 kg LW) months of age. A digestibility trial was run sequentially using 10 lambs of the same genetic and nutritional history fed at the same feeding levels to determine the digestibility of the diet. In the first feeding period, metabolizable energy intake was 15.3 ± 0.03 and 9.5 ± 0.03 MJ ME/d for high and low feeding levels respectively, resulting in higher rates of empty body gain for high feeding level lambs (197.7 ± 7.8 vs. 72.8 ± 8.2 g/d; P < 0.001). In the second feeding period, metabolizable energy intake was 15.2 ± 0.01 and 12.0 ± 0.01 MJ ME/d for high and low feeding levels respectively, resulting in higher rates of empty body gain for high feeding level lambs (176.3 ± 5.4 vs. 73.9 ± 5.3; P < 0.001). Lambs at later stages of maturity retained proportionately more energy as fat for every unit of retained energy compared to younger lambs (95.4 ± 0.40 vs. 90.0 ± 0.42%; P < 0.001). Lambs fed the lower feeding level in period two also retained proportionately more energy as fat for every unit of retained energy than lambs at the higher feeding level (97.1 ± 0.36 vs. 94.0 ± 0.37%; P < 0.001) which is hypothesized to be because of the rapid response of visceral lean tissue to changes in nutrition. There were no significant interactions between treatments in the first and second feeding periods, indicating an absence of a compensatory gain response to a nutritional restriction in the first feeding period. This experiment highlights the significance of a changing feed supply and the subsequent effects on body composition and the partitioning of energy to lean and fat tissue deposition. For improvements in the accuracy of predictive ruminant growth models it is necessary to gain a greater understanding of the different tissue responses over time to changes in nutrition.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberskad095
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Volume101
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 03 Jan 2023

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