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Duckweed as a Protein Source for Fine-Wool Merino Sheep: Its Edibility and Effects on Wool Yield and Characteristics

  • Damry, J.V. Nolan (School of Rural Science and Natural Resources, University of New England) ;
  • Bell, R.E. (BioTech Waste Management) ;
  • Thomson, E.S. (School of Rural Science and Natural Resources, University of New England)
  • Received : 2000.08.18
  • Accepted : 2000.11.30
  • Published : 2001.04.01

Abstract

Two experiments were carried out to investigate whether duckweed is useful as a dietary protein source for fine-wool Merino sheep and to evaluate its effects on wool yield and characteristics. In Experiment 1, the sheep were given one of three maintenance diets consisting of oaten chaff (520-700 g/d) supplemented with 16-32 g crude protein/d in the form of fresh (1 kg/d) or sun-dried (50-100 g/d) duckweed. Each ration was estimated to provide 5.4 MJ (1.3 Mcal)/d of metabolisable energy (ME). The sheep readily ingested the fresh or dried duckweed. None of the wool measures (yield, rate of fibre elongation, fibre diameter) differed (p>0.05) between dietary treatments. In Experiment 2, oaten-chaff-based diets (800 g/d) supplying 6.5-7.2 MJ (1.6-1.7 Mcal)/d of ME were supplemented with iso-nitrogenous amounts (4-5 g N) either of urea (8 g), cottonseed meal (60 g) or dried duckweed (100 g). In this experiment, the rate of wool fibre elongation, thought to be related to intestinal amino acid absorption, was lower (p<0.05) for sheep given the oaten chaff/urea diet than for those given either oaten chaff/cottonseed meal or oaten chaff/duckweed for which the rates did not differ (p>0.05). Fibre diameter, which ranged from 16.0-16.7 mm, did not differ (p>0.05) between diets, but tended to be lower on the oaten chaff/urea diet so that volume of wool produced was also significantly lower (p<0.05) on this diet than on the diets containing duckweed or cottonseed meal. Rumen ammonia concentrations at 4.5 and 7.5 h after feeding were higher (p<0.05) for sheep given the oaten chaff/urea diet than for those given the other two diets. A comparison of the rumen ammonia concentrations, wool growth rate and predicted flows of amino acids from the rumen of sheep supplemented with duckweed rather than cottonseed meal suggested that duckweed is a valuable source of 'escape protein' for ruminants.

Keywords

Sheep;Duckweed;Escape Protein;Wool Production;Wool Fibre

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