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Chemical composition and net energy content of alpine pasture species during the grazing season [Erratum: 2008 Sept., v. 146, issue 1-2, p. 177.]

Bovolenta, S., Spanghero, M., Dovier, S., Orlandi, D., Clementel, F.
Animal feed science and technology 2008 v.140 no.1-2 pp. 164-177
pastures, mountains, botanical composition, alpine plants, pasture plants, energy content, feed composition, growing season, temporal variation, species differences, regrowth, aerial parts, in vitro digestibility, crude protein, heat sums, protein content, Italy
The aim of this study was to investigate changes over time in chemical composition, digestibility and net energy for lactation (NEl) contents of 12 species of alpine pastures during the vegetative season (i.e., Agrostis tenuis, Anthoxanthum alpinum, Carex sempervirens, Festuca rubra, Nardus stricta, Phleum alpinum, Poa alpina, Poa violacea, Alchemilla vulgaris, Leontodon hispidus, Potentilla aurea, Trifolium repens). Wild seeds were collected from plants spontaneously occurring in mountain pastures in North-East Italy and sown in a greenhouse. Plants were transplanted in open main field plots. Each main plot was divided into sub-plots, which were cut (first cut) in succession every 10 days in two consecutive years. Herbage regrowth (second cut) was evaluated at 45, 60 and 75 days after first cut. Herbage samples were analysed for chemical composition, for in vitro organic matter digestibility (OMD), and the NEl content was estimated. During the pasture utilisation period (i.e., thermic sum between 500 and 1200°C) the species had limited variation in their average CP contents (81-109g/kgDM) excluding the lowest values of F. rubra and P. violacea (74 and 71g/kgDM, respectively; P<0.05) and the highest value of T. repens (202g/kg DM; P<0.05). Within grasses, there were very fibrous species (>700gNDF/kgDM, such as F. rubra, N. stricta and P. violacea) and species with medium contents (573-664gNDF/kgDM), while forbs and the legume specie had a low content (<=403gNDF/kgDM). The OMD ranged from P. violacea (256g/kgDM; P<0.05) to T. repens (730g/kgDM; P<0.05). The highest NEl content was for T. repens (6.3MJ/kgDM; P<0.05), while low NEl values were calculated for N. stricta and C. sempervirens (2.9 and 2.5MJ/kgDM, respectively). The lowest (P<0.05) NEl content was estimated for P. violacea (1.9MJ/kgDM). Most species investigated (in particular, Agrostis tenuis, F. rubra, L. hispidus, Potentilla aurea), had an initial intense decrease in the CP content with advancing season, reaching minimum levels at the thermic sum of 800-1000°C. During season advancement, all species had increased NDF content, with marked increments for F. rubra and Poa species, and all species had decreased NEl contents. Regrowth samples collected at 75 days after first cut had lower CP and NEl contents relative to those collected after 45 days from the first cut (140g/kg versus 160g/kgDM and 4.4MJ/kg versus 4.8MJ/kgDM, respectively; P<0.05). This study provides nutritional information on individual herbage species of alpine pastures at different vegetative phases which can be used to obtain average nutritional values of use in pasture management work.