Consumption and Digestion of Forages by Male Rusa (Cervus timorensis russa) Deer-the Effects of Castration and Season

  • Sookhareea, R. (Ministry of Agriculture, Food Technology and Natural Resources) ;
  • Dryden, G. McL (School of Animal Studies, The University of Queensland)
  • Received : 2003.09.30
  • Accepted : 2004.04.14
  • Published : 2004.08.01


In a split-unit design, 12 Javan rusa (Cervus timorensis russa) stags (6 castrated and 6 entire) were used to investigate seasonal (winter, spring and summer) effects on intake, digestibility of food constituents, volatile fatty acid profile, and nitrogen retention, when given lucerne (Medicago sativa) or rhodes grass (Chloris guyana) hays. Entire stags ate 9% more dry matter (DM) than castrates (p<0.05). Both castrated and entire stags exhibited seasonal changes in DM intake, these being higher (p<0.05) in winter (62.3 g/kg $W^{0.75}$) than spring (56.9 g/kg $W^{0.75}$) or summer (55.3 g/kg $W^{0.75}$). Intakes of lucerne hay (211 g protein/kg DM) were significantly higher than of rhodes grass hay (49 g protein/kg DM) in all seasons (p<0.05). Digestibilities of DM (0.58), neutral detergent fibre (0.59) and acid detergent fibre (0.47) were similar between castrates and entires. DM digestibility was higher (p<0.0001) for lucerne (0.66) than rhodes grass (0.55), and was higher (p<0.05) in winter (0.60) than spring (0.58) or summer (0.57). The ruminal acetate concentrations were higher (p<0.001) in spring than summer (78 and 73 molar % respectively). Apparent digestibility of protein was significantly less (p<0.0001) for rhodes grass (0.37) than lucerne (0.75). N retention was positive for lucerne (15.2 g/d) but negative for rhodes grass (-2.8 g/d) (p<0.0001), and was higher (p<0.001) in summer (12.0 g/d) than spring (4.3 g/d) or winter (2.4 g/d). The tropical rusa deer exhibits seasonal variations in feed intake, food constituent digestibilities, VFA profile and N retention. Castration did not alter these traits. The results do not support the view that rusa deer can thrive on low-quality pastures. The productivity and commercial exploitation of rusa deer could be optimised if they are given high-protein feed during spring and summer.


Rusa Deer;Forage;Food Intake;Digestibility


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