Advisory experience concerning the metabolisable energy standards for cattle and sheep introduced in 1976 is reviewed. The change appears to have proceeded smoothly, the new terminology and units being mastered and then used in discussions on dairy cow feeding. The system proposed has thrown new light on some old problems and also on established methods of feeding dairy cattle. "Feeding according to yield" and "lead feeding" need to be reinterpreted in the light of the probable dry matter intakes and live-weight changes of cows in early lactation. These parameters also affect the calculated levels of protein received in dairy compound feeds in early lactation. Group feeding of cows by stage of lactation, level of milk yield and live-weight change is readily accepted by managers of the larger dairy herds. Confidence in the accuracy of the dairy ME system has been built up, and its application to suckler cows has also proved successful. The variable net energy system for growing cattle enables ration formulation to be accomplished speedily and linear programming if desired. Published experiments have been used to confirm the accuracy of predicted live-weight gains when compared with observed gains. No sex effects are included in the system, although differences of +/- 10 per cent have been recorded in natural or hormone induced sex effect trials. The requirements for pregnant ewes have been shown to be too low and liable to reduce lamb birth-weights. In the case of growing lambs, a review of published experiments has shown that lambs grew faster than predicted, suggesting that the energy allowances are too high.
- British Veterinary Association. All rights reserved.
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