T. Panjaitan, S. P. Quigley, S. R. McLennan, T. Swain and D. P. Poppi
Feed intake, rumen function, microbial protein (MCP) production and the efficiency of MCP production were determined in steers fed four different forage hays varying markedly in crude protein content. Low quality tropical forage (speargrass and Mitchell grass) hays had lower crude protein content, higher neutral detergent fibre content and lower digestibility than a medium quality tropical forage (pangola grass) hay and a temperate forage (ryegrass) hay. Steers fed speargrass and Mitchell grass hays had lower MCP production (80 and 170 g MCP/day, espectively) and efficiency of MCP production [78 and 79 g MCP/kg digestible organic matter (DOM), respectively] than steers fed pangola grass (328 g MCP/day; 102 gMCP/kgDOM)and ryegrass (627 g MCP/day; 135 gMCP/kgDOM)hays, which was directly related to the supply of DOM and rumen degradable protein. Intake was greatest for ryegrass hay, followed by pangola grass, Mitchell grass and speargrass hays [17.6, 15.6, 10.1 and 5.5 g DM/kg W.day, respectively]. The retention ime of DM in the rumen was 72.1, 47.7, 28.6 and 19.1 h for speargrass, Mitchell grass, pangola grass and ryegrass hays, respectively, with a similar trend apparent for the retention time of neutral detergent fibre, lignin, chromium-EDTA and ytterbium labelled digesta. The difference in the protein : energy ratio of absorbed substrates (measured as efficiency of MCP production) did not appear to account for all the differences in intake, nor did a purely physical mechanism.