The Journal of Agricultural Science

Research Article

An assessment of the quality of forage from its cell-wall content and amount of cell wall digested

K. W. Moira1

a1 Animal Research Institute, Department of Primary Industries, Yeerongpilly, Brisbane, Australia


Grasses and legumes comprising poor to good quality temperate and tropical species were fed to either cattle or sheep in 36 digestibility experiments. Cell wall in these forages was the ash-free and protein-free residue after sequential extraction with acidpepsin, organic solvents and either water for grasses or ammonium oxalate for legumes. The average amount of cell wall digested per 100 g forage OM was 40·0±0·59 g in grasses and 19·8±1·85 g in legumes. It was considered that within grasses and within legumes the physiology of ruminant digestion, rather than forage quality, was the main determinant of the average amount of cell wall digested and the difference between grasses and legumes was due to interaction of the ruminant digestion process with the physical structure of the cell wall. Of forage factors governing variation about the physiological average, the total cell wall had some effect on the amount of cell wall digested, but the lignin concentration in the cell wall had no effect.

Among grasses and legumes the average, apparently undigested, protein-free non-cell-wall component was 6·2±0·13 g per 100 g forage OM. This component and digestible protein relative to total protein varied among different sets of data. It was concluded that only the component of digestible organic matter which was governed by the relative proportions of cell walls and cellular contents was predictable from chemical composition. It was considered that selection in plant breeding should be based on both digestible cell wall and cell-wall content instead of digestible organic matter.

(Received November 09 1971)