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Suitability of NIRS analysis for estimating diet quality of free-living red deer Cervus elaphus and roe deer Capreolus capreolus

Kamler, Jií, Homolka, Miloslav, Čižmár, David
Wildlife biology 2004 v.10 no.3 pp. 235-240
Capreolus capreolus, Cervus elaphus, Kjeldahl method, feces, growing season, near-infrared spectroscopy, nitrogen, nitrogen content, nutritional adequacy, ruminants, winter
In this study, we tested the efficiency of near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) to assess nitrogen content in faeces of free-living ruminants. Faecal nitrogen (FN) content was analysed in 168 pellet groups from red deer Cervus elaphus and roe deer Capreolus capreolus in the growing season and in winter using both the standard Kjeldahl method and NIRS analysis. Estimates of nitrogen content obtained by the two methods did not differ (P > 0.1), and the correlation between FN values was significant (P < 0.001). FN content ranged within 1.10–4.58% of dry matter and, as anticipated, it was higher in the growing season than in winter in both species (P < 0.01). Faecal nitrogen values were also higher for roe deer than for red deer, although the difference was only significant in the growing season (P = 0.007). Our study confirmed that faecal nitrogen of free-living ruminants can be accurately determined with NIRS analysis. NIRS represents a low-cost analytical technique, which could replace conventional labourious methods and is highly promising for analyses of diet quality in free-living ruminants.