British Journal of Nutrition

Papers on General Nutrition

Comparative digestion of timothy (Phleum pratense) fibre by ruminants, equines and rabbits

Peter Udéna1 p1 and Peter J. Van Soesta1

a1 Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA


1. The abilities of cattle, sheep, goats, equines and rabbits to digest mature timothy (Phleum pratense) hay were compared. Apparent digestibilities were partitioned into true digestibility, metabolic faecal output (MFO) and fibre digestibility. The aim of the study was to determine the relative effects of fermentation site (among groups) and of body-weight (within groups) on the efficiency of digestion.

2. The ruminants were superior to equines, which were in turn superior to rabbits, in digesting fibre components of the hay. A large individual variation in digestibility was noted only for the equines. Increasing body-weight was associated with higher digestibility in ruminants, but no such trends were seen in the non-ruminants.

3. The MFO expressed as a proportion of dry matter intake gave similar values for all groups (0·085–0·118). As a proportion of available microbial substrate originating from the feed, the values were found to be 0·167 for the ruminant, 0·425 for the equines and 2·13 for the rabbits. The value for the rabbits shows that their lower tract microflora must obtain energy from non-fibre components of the feed. No appreciable digestion of the generated microbes by the host was suggested by the values obtained for the equines.

(Received June 12 1981)

(Accepted September 22 1981)


p1 Department of Animal Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden.