Browsing Journal of Range Management, Volume 48, Number 3 (May 1995) by Subjects
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Comparison of fecal analysis and rumen evacuation techniques for sampling diet botanical composition of grazing cattleFecal samples, evacuated rumen samples, and non-evacuated rumen samples were compared at different seasons as techniques for determining diet botanical composition of cattle. The study was conducted at the New Mexico State University College Ranch near Las Cruces. Six rumen-fistulated steers were used spring (28 May-7 June), summer (19 July-8 August). fall 1989 (1-17 October), winter (8-28 January) 1990; 4 rumen-fistulated steers were used during summer (24 July-4 August) 1990. Sampling techniques differed (P < 0.05) for the proportion of some plant species in steer diets at certain seasons. In most cases, these differences were observed only for minor forage species. Similarity (%) between fecal samples, evacuated rumen samples, and non-evacuated rumen samples varied with season and with the particular techniques being compared. Similarity (%) between fecal samples and evacuated rumen samples (74%), and highest in summer (1989) between fecal samples and non-evacuated rumen samples (93%). Differential digestion, sampling procedures, and observer errors may explain these differences. For practical purposes, fecal analysis appears to be one of the best techniques to evaluate diet composition of large herbivores.
Technical Note: Physical factors that influence fecal analysis estimates of herbivore dietsMicrohistological analysis of epidermal fragments in feces is often used to estimate the diet of herbivores but is not generally accepted as a consistently reliable method. Gross errors arise, especially when diets are composed of herbage components with widely different morphological and structural characteristics. The present study investigated the possibility of using such physical characteristics to improve the reliability of the method. Over a 7 day period, 4 rumen-fistulated beef cows were given a fixed diet composed of a shrub, a grass, and a forb component. On the last 2 days, samples of rumen content and feces were taken for analysis of epidermal fragment. Forbs were under-estimated, grasses over-estimated, and shrubs correctly estimated. Correction factors to estimate true diet composition were defined as the biomass represented by the specific epidermal fragments (epidermal weight index) and the degree of degradation to which the epidermis is subjected in the digestion process (epidermal erodibility factor). These factors account for characteristic physical features of the different dietary components and were measured directly or were derived from the calibration experiment. The utility of such factors depends on accurate determination of the component variables and may be overshadowed by sampling error and observer bias in the microhistological identification of epidermal fragments.