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Influences of grassland degradation on forage availability by sheep in the Inner Mongolian steppes of China

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In China and throughout the world, evaluation of the nutrient values of forages has always lagged behind research regarding the nutrient requirements of animals. In this study, the effective degradability and availability of forages were evaluated on undegraded and degraded grassland using a technique where nylon bags were incubated in sheep rumen. We found that the concentrations of organic matter (OM), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), non‐fiber carbohydrates (NFC) and carbohydrates (CHO) of forage were higher (P < 0.05) and the crude protein (CP) concentration was lower (P < 0.05) in the degraded grassland than in the undegraded grassland. The effective degradability (ED) of NFC (EDNFC) was higher (P < 0.05) and EDCHO and EDNDF were lower in the undegraded grassland than in the degraded grassland. The EDOM and EDCP were not affected by the type of grassland, which may explain why ED is an inadequate parameter for the evaluation of forage availability. According to an analysis of the ratio of effectively degraded N to OM and NFC, plants of the undegraded grassland can provide more digestive nutrients to meet the requirements of grazing animals compared to plants of the degraded grassland. Results suggested that it is inadequate to consider only chemical composition and effective degradability when evaluating forage availability with grassland degradation. The ratio of effectively degraded N to OM and NFC was an appropriate indicator.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: College of Ecology and Environment, Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, Huhhot, 2: Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences and 3: Institute of Grassland Science, China Agricultural University, Beijing, China

Publication date: August 1, 2011

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