Use of N-alkanes to estimate intake and digestibility by beef steers
Fontenot, Joseph P.
Shanklin, R. K.
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The objective of the study was to evaluate the use of n-alkanes to estimate DM intake and digestibility by beef cattle. Six steers were blocked (3 blocks, 2 animals/block) according to the body weight (279 +/- 19 kg) and randomly allotted within blocks to two diets (3 steers/diet). A second trial was conducted with the same animals (321 +/- 18 kg) after 36 days (d), using a switch back design. The diets consisted of two types of chopped sun-cured hay, alfalfa (Medicago sativa L) hay, or fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb) and alfalfa mixture, which were fed in equal amounts to steers. Animals were dosed with C-32 and C-36 alkanes, employing an intra-ruminal controlled-release device at the beginning of each trial. Hay intake per animal was measured from d 6 to 12 and sub samples were taken for chemical analysis. Rectal samples of feces were taken from each animal once/daily from d 8 to 14, freeze dried, and ground prior to alkane analysis. Alkanes were extracted from ground hay and feces. Feed intake was calculated from the dose rate of C-32 alkane and, the herbage and fecal concentrations of adjacent odd (C-33 or C-31) and even (C-32) chain length alkanes. Crude Protein, NDF, ADF, ash concentrations and In vitro dry matter digestibility (IVDMD) were 17.7, 42.2, 28.4, 7.9 and 71.7 for alfalfa, and 12.4, 56.5, 30.4, 6.9 and 69.1% for fescue/alfalfa mixture, respectively. For both diets, intake estimated from C-33:C-32 ratio was not different from the measured intake, but intake estimated from C-31:C-32 ratio was lower (p<0.05), than the measured intake for both diets. The average estimated forage intake from C-33:C-32 ratio was 4.86 and 0.69% below than the measured intake for alfalfa and, fescue/alfalfa mixed diets, respectively. The respective estimates with C-31:C-32 ratio were 9.59 and 11.33% below than the measured intake. According to these results, alkane C-33:C-32 ratio is better than alkane C-31:C-32 ratio for the estimation of intake by beef steers.