• Anti-quality components in forage: Overview, significance, and economic impact

      Allen, V. G.; Segarra, E. (Society for Range Management, 2001-07-01)
      Although 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.
    • Structural anti-quality characteristics of range and pasture plants

      Laca, E. A.; Shipley, L. A.; Reid, E. D. (Society for Range Management, 2001-07-01)
      Structural anti-quality characteristics are physical plant traits that reduce the performance and productivity of herbivores and quality of their agricultural products. Most structural anti-quality characteristics of plants affect the rate at which herbivores gather and ingest forages, reducing the total amount of food obtained or increasing the time necessary to obtain food. Structural anti-quality can substantially influence searching time (e.g., plant crypticity, distribution), cropping time (e.g., plant fibrousness, tensile and shear strength), and bite size (e.g., plant canopy structure, spinescence). Plant structural characteristics can also reduce digestion (e.g., silica), cause injury (e.g., spines, awns, burrs, calluses), or reduce the quality of animal products, such as wool (e.g., propagules). The effects of structural antiquality characteristics depend on the morphology of the herbivore, especially its size, the morphology of the focal plant, and their context within the habitat. Integrated grazing management plans should consider options to reduce the negative effects of structural anti-quality. Carefully selecting appropriate livestock species with previous experience, and the appropriate season of grazing can minimize anti-quality on rangelands. Because structural anti-quality may actually promote sustainability of grazing systems by preventing severe defoliation, or by providing refuges for highly desirable forages, it may not be desirable to completely counteract their effects.