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Feed intake and production in sheep fed diets high in sodium and potassium

Masters, D.G., Rintoul, A.J., Dynes, R.A., Pearce, K.L. and Norman, H.C. (2005) Feed intake and production in sheep fed diets high in sodium and potassium. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 56 (5). pp. 427-434.

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Salinity is a problem facing many crop and livestock producers in southern Australia. One management option is to revegetate with salt-tolerant plants suitable for animal production. These plants are often halophytic shrubs containing up to 30% ash, predominantly as sodium, potassium, or chloride. This experiment examines the consequences of a high intake of sodium and potassium separately or together on feed intake, digestibility, liveweight change, and wool growth. Twelve groups of 6 weaner wethers were allocated to treatments according to a balanced 3 x 4 factorial design with 3 levels of added potassium (0, 0.38, and 0.77 mol/kg DM equivalent to 0, 15, and 30 g/kg DM) and 4 levels of added sodium (0, 0.87, 2.18, and 3.48 mol/kg DM, equivalent to 0, 20, 50, and 80 g/kg DM) as the chloride salts. The treatment diets were fed to sheep for 6 weeks. Increasing sodium in the diet significantly decreased feed intake, digestibility, liveweight gain, and wool growth either as a main effect or through an interaction with potassium. Organic matter intake was reduced from 1.35 kg at the lowest levels of sodium and potassium to 0.67 kg at the highest levels. Comparing the same 2 groups, liveweight gain was reduced from 144 to 0 g/day, organic matter digestibility from 59.1% to 57.3%, and wool growth from 1.21 to 1.04 mg/cm2 .day. The response surfaces indicate that production was depressed even at the lower levels of sodium, whereas high potassium depressed intake, digestibility, and liveweight gain at high levels of sodium only. The interaction between sodium and potassium was always negative at high levels of sodium, indicating that manipulation of the proportions of the 2 elements is unlikely to provide benefits for animal production when total salt levels are high. Although wool growth was depressed at high sodium and potassium, the efficiency of wool growth increased from 10.0 to 15.4 g/kg organic matter intake when the lowest and highest levels of the sodium and potassium were compared. This result may present significant opportunities for the use of saline land to grow fine wool.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO
Copyright: © CSIRO 2005.
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