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Keywords:

  • goat;
  • pasture;
  • gain;
  • blood;
  • faecal egg count

Abstract

The experiment was conducted in 2005–2007 to evaluate weight performance, blood parameters associated with forage nutrient-use and anaemia from gastrointestinal nematode (GIN) infection, and faecal egg count (FEC) patterns of meat-goat kids finished on alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.; ALF); red clover/grass mixture (Trifolium pratense L.; RCG); and orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L; OGR) pastures. Forage mass, crude protein (CP) and total digestible nutrients (TDN) displayed complex interactions between treatment and time (< 0·001) across the grazing seasons. Final body weight was greater for goats finished on ALF and RCG than on OGR, except in 2006 when ALF was greater than RCG or OGR. The TDN/CP ratios in forages and blood urea nitrogen concentrations in grazing goats were highly correlated (r = 0·99; = 0·02) and suggested that animals were wasting forage protein. Faecal egg count was variable over the grazing season each year (date and treatment × date interaction; < 0·001), but in general, FEC indicated that goat kids grazing ALF were less affected by GIN than kids grazing RCG or OGR. Research is needed to determine whether strategic energy supplementation would improve protein-use efficiency and resilience to parasite infection when finishing meat goats on pastures managed for high forage nutritive value.