Browsing Journal of Range Management, Volume 54, Number 4 (July 2001) by Subjects
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Anti-quality components in forage: Overview, significance, and economic impactAlthough recognized in importance from the dawn of history, forages have too often been underestimated and undervalued perhaps in part because animal performance has frequently failed to reflect apparent forage quality. Anti-quality components, diverse impediments to quality, have evolved as structural components and as secondary metabolites. They include mineral imbalances or can be related to the presence of insects and diseases. Animal behavior and adaptation are increasingly recognized as important aspects of anti-quality factors. An anti-quality component may reduce dry matter intake, dry matter digestibility, or result in nutritional imbalances in animals. They can act as a direct poison compromising vital systems, result in abnormal reproduction, endocrine function, and genetic aberrations, trigger undesirable behavior responses, or suppress immune function leading to increased morbidity and mortality. The economic impact of anti-quality factors on individual herds can be devastating but definable. Broadscale economic impacts of anti-quality factors are far more difficult to estimate. A loss of 0.22 kg/day in potential gain of stocker cattle due to anti-quality factors during a 166-day grazing season translates into a loss of about 55/steer at 1.45/kg or over 2 billion annually when applied to the U.S stocker cattle. Economic losses to tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) toxicosis in the U.S. beef industry are probably underestimated at 600 million annually. Reproductive and death losses of livestock due to poisonous plants have been estimated at 340 million in the 17 western states alone. These examples of economic losses due to anti-quality factors may be upper bounds of actual losses but even if a small proportion of the expected losses were eliminated through research, the potential payoff would be extremely high.
Herbivore response to anti-quality factors in foragesPlants possess a wide variety of compounds and growth forms that are termed "anti-quality" factors because they reduce forage value and deter grazing. Anti-quality attributes can reduce a plant's digestible nutrients and energy or yield toxic effects. Herbivores possess several adaptive mechanisms to lessen the impacts of anti-quality factors. First, herbivores graze selectively to limit consumption of potentially harmful plant compounds. Grazing animals rely on a sophisticated system to detect plant nutritional value or toxicity by relating the flavor of a plant to its positive or negative digestive consequences. Diet selection skills are enhanced by adaptive intake patterns that limit the deleterious effects of plant allelochemicals; these include cautious sampling of sample new foods, consuming a varied diet, and eating plants in a cyclic, intermittent, or carefully regulated fashion. Second, grazing animals possess internal systems that detoxify or tolerate ingested phytotoxins. Animals may eject toxic plant material quickly after ingestion, secrete substances in the mouth or gut to render allelochemicals inert, rely on rumen microbes to detoxify allelochemicals, absorb phytochemicals from the gut and detoxified them in body tissues, or develop a tolerance to the toxic effects of plant allelochemicals. Understanding the behavioral and metabolic abilities of herbivores suggests several livestock management practices to help animals contend with plant anti-quality characteristics. These practices include offering animals proper early life experiences, selecting the appropriate livestock species and individuals, breeding animals with desired attributes, and offering nutritional or pharmaceutical products to aid in digestion and detoxification.