a1 Division of Animal Nutrition, Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute, Avikanagar, PO Box 304 501, Rajasthan, India
Improvement in body condition and carcass traits through nutritional intervention was studied in cull ewes. Sixty-eight adult non-productive Malpura ewes (average body weight 26.7 ± 0.33 kg) were randomly divided into four equal groups: G0 maintained on free grazing for 8 h on protected natural rangeland with ad libitum guar (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba) straw (GS) after grazing; G1, G2 and G3 fed with supplemental concentrate at the rate of 250 g, 2.5% of live weight (LW) and ad libitum, respectively. The experiment was continued for 90 days and daily feed intake, weekly LW and body condition score (BCS) were recorded. Intake and digestibility of nutrients were assessed by indicator method. Rumen fermentation attributes and blood biochemical profile were studied to assess the dietary effects and animals were slaughtered at the end of experiment for evaluation of carcass characteristics. Higher dry matter (DM) intake and improvement in plane of nutrition was observed in G2 and G3 with a higher LW gain (LWG) and improvement in BCS than in G0. The digestibility of DM, organic matter, CP, ADF and cellulose was higher (P < 0.05) in G2 and G3 than in G0. A lower ruminal pH and ammonia N but higher total N and trichloroacetic acid-precipitable N, an increase in holotrichs, spirotrichs and total protozoa population, increase in haemoglobin but decrease in serum total cholesterol and non-esterified fatty acids were observed in high-concentrate-fed groups. Carcass attributes revealed increase (P < 0.05) in empty LW, dressing yield, eye muscle area, subcutaneous and intramuscular fat, decrease in shear force value and higher (P < 0.05) protein content in Longissimus dorsi muscle in test groups than in the control. Above all, the G2 animals had better rumen environment and blood biochemical attributes and consumed more feed with enhanced digestibility that supported higher LWG at better feed conversion efficiency, improvement in BCS and carcass quality. Thus, re-alimentation of cull ewes with challenged feeding of concentrate at 2.5% of LW on a basal roughage diet for a period of 3 months may have promise for better economic return to the farmers with possibly meeting quality mutton for human consumption.
(Received September 10 2010)
(Accepted June 26 2011)
(Online publication August 01 2011)