A comparison of four methods used in determining the diets of large herbivores Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/jd472z970

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  • Esophageal fistulation, stomach content analysis, fecal analysis, and ocular-estimate-by-plot are four of the most publicized methods of determining the diets of large herbivores. The principal objective of this study was to compare the relative values of each of these methods based upon information collected from bi-fistulated (esophageal and rumen) sheep selecting their own forage from a tall-forb community in early summer and late summer, and from confined sheep fed a hand-mixed diet of known composition. Microscope slide mounts were made of plant fragments collected from the esophagus, rumen, and feces of sheep grazing a beauty cinquefoil /velvet lupine Kentucky bluegrass /timothy community in northeastern Oregon. Ocular estimates of forage utilization were made concurrently. Data were converted to percent composition on a dry weight basis for comparisons. Significant differences (p < .05) in percent diet composition among methods occurred for 18 of the 31 plant species consumed in the early summer trial, and for 17 of the 31 plant species consumed in the late summer trial. Diets as determined by the ocular-estimate-by-plot method were generally lower in graminoids and higher in forbs than those as determined by other methods. The esophageal fistula method yielded diets that were lower in graminoids and higher in forbs than diets as determined by stomach content analysis and fecal analysis. Diets as determined by fecal analysis were higher in graminoids and lower in forbs than diets as determined by other methods. In the second study phase, ten confined bi-fistulated sheep were separately fed a dry, ground, hand-composited mixture of orchardgrass, fawn fescue, alfalfa, and ladino clover. The botanical composition of this mixture was determined by microscopic examination of plant fragments and compared to the botanical composition of diets as determined by microscopic examination of esophageal, rumen, and fecal samples. The composition of each of the species contained in esophageal samples was similar to that of the actual diet. Rumen samples were similar to the actual diet only in their composition of orchardgrass, and contained significantly higher (p < .05) amounts of total grasses and significantly lower (p < .05) amounts of total forbs than the actual diet and esophageal samples. Fecal samples were significantly higher (p < .05) in their composition of grasses and significantly lower (p < .05) in their composition of forbs than the actual diet and samples collected from the esophagus or rumen.
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