Effects of diet and roughage quality, and period of the day on diurnal feeding behaviour patterns of sheep and goats under subtropical conditions

  • Moyo, Mehluli (Animal and Poultry Science, School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal) ;
  • Adebayo, Rasheed Adekunle (Animal and Poultry Science, School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal) ;
  • Nsahlai, Ignatius Verla (Animal and Poultry Science, School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal)
  • Received : 2017.12.12
  • Accepted : 2018.06.11
  • Published : 2019.05.01


Objective: This study investigated the effect of diet and roughage quality (RQ) on dry matter intake, duration and number of daytime and night-time eating bouts, idling sessions and ruminating activities in small ruminants. Methods: In Exp 1 and 2, RQ was improved by urea treatment of veld hay, while diet quality was improved by supplementing with Lucerne hay (Exp 3), sunflower meal and lespedeza (Exp 4), fish meal (Exp 5a), and sunflower meal (Exp 5b). In all experiments goats and sheep were blocked by weight and randomly allocated to experimental diets. Day-time (06:00 to 18:00 h) and night time (18:00 to 06:00 h) feeding behaviour activities were recorded. Results: RQ affected rumination index in Exp 1, but not in Exp 2, 3, and 5. Time spent eating and ruminating was affected by RQ (Exp 1, 3, and 4), period of day (all experiments) and their interaction (Exp 1). Intake rates (g/bout and g/min) were similar across diets. Period of day affected the duration of rumination sessions (Exp 1, 2, and 3); diet or RQ affected the duration of eating bouts (Exp 3) and rumination sessions (Exp 1 and 2). RQ had a significant effect on the duration of eating sessions in Exp 3 only, whilst period of day affected this same behaviour in Exp 2 and 3. Generally, goats and sheep fed on roughage alone ruminate at night and eat more during the day but those fed a roughage and supplemented with Lucerne hay spent more time ruminating than eating. Time spent eating and ruminating had positive correlations to crude protein and feed intake. Intake rates had strong positive correlations to intake. Conclusion: Chewing time, number of eating and ruminating sessions, and duration of eating bouts are physiologically controlled in small ruminants, though chewing time requires isometric scaling during modelling of intake.


Feeding Behaviour;Feed Quality;Goats;Predation Risk;Sheep


Grant : Intake of roughage by ruminant herbivores

Supported by : National Research Foundation


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