The aim of this study was to compare the apparent digestibility and rumen fermentation products in deer fed plantain (Plantago lanceolata) and perennial ryegrass-based pasture (Lolium perenne) during spring. Forages were cut and fed fresh in a cross-over design to seven castrated, rumen fistulated red deer (Cervus elaphus) housed individually indoors in metabolism crates. Plantain contained greater levels of organic matter and lignin and had a greater ratio of readily fermentable to structural carbohydrates and lower levels of crude protein (P < 0.01), compared with ryegrass-based pasture. The apparent digestibility of organic matter for both forages was high, but less for plantain (74.9%) compared with ryegrass-based pasture (81.5%) (P < 0.01). The ammonia concentration of rumen fluid from deer fed plantain (4.6 mmol/L) was less compared with fluid from deer fed ryegrass-based pasture (20.9 mmol/L) (P < 0.01). The apparent reduction in degradation of protein to ammonia in the rumen of deer fed plantain may have implications for increasing the efficiency of use of dietary protein in grazing ruminants. Further research is required to investigate the effect of feeding plantain, and its secondary compounds, on the rumen microbial ecosystem and rumen fermentation.

NM, Swainson, and SO Hoskin

Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 66, Napier, 64-69, 2006
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