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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Inclusion of Morning and Evening-Harvested Alfalfa Hays in Diets Fed to Newly-Received Sheep

Authors
item Thelen, Tonya
item Taylor, Joshua
item Mayland, Henry

Submitted to: Professional Animal Scientist
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 1, 2008
Publication Date: August 1, 2008
Citation: Thelen, T.M., Taylor, J.B., Mayland, H.F. 2008. Effects of including alfalfa hays that were harvested in the morning or evening in diets of newly-received sheep. Professional Animal Scientist. 24:473-478.

Interpretive Summary: Sheep placed in unfamiliar environments avoided novel feeds for up to 10 days and(or) reduced their total feed intake for over 4 weeks. When given a choice, ruminants prefer evening over morning-harvested alfalfa hay. Therefore, could strategic use of evening-harvested alfalfa hay fed as a pellet or included as a component of receiving diets stimulate naive sheep to increase total feed intake? Based on the data from this study, strategic dietary use of pellets or hay prepared from evening-harvested alfalfa did not stimulate naive sheep to increase total feed intake. The lack of commonality between our experiments and other research seems to be related with (1) sheep cannot discriminate as well as other livestock between PM and AM-alfalfa, (2) pelleting or including in mixed diets masks sheep-preferred characteristics of PM-alfalfa, or (3) PM and AM-alfalfa used in the current experiment did not differ enough in sheep-preferred characteristics to enable sheep to discriminate between the two. Therefore, when attempting to stimulate naive sheep to increase total feed intake, it is not advantageous to feed evening-harvested alfalfa hay as a pellet or as a component (<65%, DM basis) of mixed diets.

Technical Abstract: When given a choice, ruminants preferred evening (PM-alfalfa) over morning- (AM-alfalfa) harvested alfalfa hay. Therefore, could strategic use of PM-alfalfa fed as a pellet or included as a component of receiving diets stimulate naive sheep to increase DMI early in the receiving period? Experiments were conducted to (1) determine preferences of naive sheep for pellets prepared from PM and AM-alfalfa, (2) measure performance of wether lambs fed pellets prepared from PM vs. AM-alfalfa, and (3) measure performance and productivity of ewe lambs fed receiving diets formulated with PM- vs. AM-alfalfa. Pelleting PM-alfalfa resulted in pellets having similar (P > 0.05) palatability to naive sheep as pellets prepared from AM-alfalfa. Inclusion of PM-alfalfa in receiving diets feed to ewe lambs resulted in greater consumption of alfalfa stem fractions (P < 0.01). However, this effect did not result in greater DMI or gain over a 35 d feeding period (P > 0.76). Based on data from this study, strategic dietary use of pellets or hay prepared from evening-harvested alfalfa did not stimulate naive sheep to increase DMI. The lack of commonality between the experiments reported herein and other research may be because (1) sheep cannot discriminated as well as other livestock between AM and PM-alfalfa, or (2) pelleting or including in mixed diets masks sheep-preferred characteristics of PM-alfalfa. Therefore, in receiving diets fed to naive sheep, it is not advantageous to pellet or include as a mixed-diet component (<65% DM basis) alfalfa hay that was evening harvested specifically for the purpose of creating hay that is more palatable.

Last Modified: 4/21/2014
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