Livestock Research for Rural Development 28 (9) 2016 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

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Growth rates and feed conversion rate of Ongole, Limousin-Ongole and Brahman bulls fed elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum)

R Antari1,2, G P Ningrum2, D Pamungkas2, D E Mayberry3, Marsetyo4 and D P Poppi1

1 School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Queensland, Gatton Campus, Warrego Hwy, Lawes, Qld 4343, Australia
marsetyomarsetyo@yahoo.co.uk
2 Beef Cattle Research Institute, Grati, Pasuruan, East Java 67184, Indonesia
3 CSIRO Agriculture, Queensland Bioscience Precinct, 306 Carmody Road, St Lucia, Queensland 4067, Australia
4 Department of Animal Sciences, Tadulako University, Palu, Central Sulawesi 94118, Indonesia

Abstract

The aim of this experiment was to assess the suitability of different cattle breeds for existing smallholder fattening systems based on local forages and crop residues. in Indonesia. We compared the growth rates and feed conversion rate of Ongole (Bos indicus), Limousin (Bos taurus)-Ongole and Brahman (Bos indicus) bulls fed elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum), which is of similar quality to diets currently fed by smallholder farmers. The experiment was conducted at the Beef Cattle Research Institute, Grati, East Java. Ten bulls (171 4 kg liveweight, 1.2 0.7 years old) of each breed were fed elephant grass ad libitum for 16 weeks.

Nutritive value of elephant grass was 7.4% crude protein, 69% neutral detergent fibre, and 62% organic matter digestibility. Limousin-Ongole bulls had the highest liveweight gain (0.26 kg/day) and best feed conversion rate (16 kg DM feed intake/kg liveweight gain). The Brahman bulls had the lowest liveweight gain (0.11 kg/d) and highest conversion rate (34 kg DM feed intake/kg liveweight gain). Differences in the age, liveweight and condition of the bulls at the start of the experiment had a bigger impact on liveweight gain and feed conversion rate than breed. However, these differences reflect the reality of Indonesian smallholder fattening systems.

Keywords: cattle, fattening, forages, Indonesia, liveweight gain, smallholder


Introduction

The Indonesian beef cattle population is concentrated in East Java (LAHS 2015), and most animals are managed by smallholder farmers in an intensive cut and carry system. Smallholder farmers keep many different breeds of cattle for growing and fattening prior to slaughter. Some farmers choose to raise large, imported cattle breeds such as Brahman (Bos indicus), while other farmers prefer local breeds such as Ongole (Bos indicus), and others cross local breeds with imported Bos taurus cattle (e.g. Limousin-Ongole and Simmental-Ongole cross) (Cahyadi et al 2012, Kementan–BPS 2012).

There is little published information about the relative growth rates and production efficiency of different cattle breeds in Indonesia, especially Brahmans compared to local pure bred or cross-bred animals.In addition, most controlled studies have focused on comparing the genetic potential of cattle breeds, and how quickly or efficiently they grow when fed good quality diets. For example, in a pen-feeding experiment, Purnomoadi et al (2003) reported that there was no difference in feed intake of Ongole and Limousin-Ongole bulls fed fermented rice straw and concentrate, but the crossbred bulls had a higher average daily liveweight gain and lower feed conversion rates. Carvalho et al (2010) reported similar patterns when comparing intake, liveweight gain and feed conversion of Ongole and Simmental-Ongole bulls fed concentrate, elephant grass, soybean hulls and cassava, but the differences in liveweight gain and feed conversion ratio between breeds were not significant at P = 0.05. Results from these experiments may provide useful information on breed selection for commercial feedlotters and farmers with access to good quality feedstuffs for their cattle. However, the current reality is that most smallholder farmers feed growing bulls diets consisting mostly of local forages and crop residues (Hanifah et al 2010, Pamungkas et al 2012, Pamungkas et al 2013, Priyanti et al 2015), and the relative performance of cattle breeds may be different under conditions of limited nutrition.

Several authors have published comparisons of growth rates for bulls kept by smallholder farmers in East Java, but results are generally confounded by differences in animal management and feeding. Pamungkas et al (2012) monitored the growth of Ongole, Limousin-Ongole and Simmental-Ongole bulls kept by smallholder farmers in East Java over the dry and wet seasons. They found that growth rates of crossbred bulls were higher than Ongole bulls in both seasons. Similar results were reported by Pamungkas et al (2013) in a comparison of Ongole, Brahman and European-Brahman cross bulls. However, in both studies, farmers tended to feed the Brahman and crossbred cattle better quality feeds than the Ongole cattle, perhaps in response to higher market prices (Mahendri et al 2010, Priyanti et al 2012a). Farmers were also more likely to spend money purchasing feed for crossbred cattle (Priyanti et al 2012b). Consequently, it was not clear if breed or diet had the biggest impact on liveweight gain.

While there are many ways for farmers to increase the quality of diets fed to their cattle, adoption rates of new technologies and supplementation strategies are often low. Thus, it would be useful to compare the growth rates and feed conversion rate of bulls fed a diet of similar quality to that fed by smallholder farmers.This information can be used to help identify the most suitable breeds of cattle for current smallholder fattening systems.The aim of this research was to compare the growth rates and feed conversion rate of Ongole, Limousin-Ongole and Brahman bulls fed a diet of similar quality to that commonly fed by smallholder farmers.


Materials and Methods

Ten bulls of each breed were used in the experiment. Brahman and Limousin-Ongole bulls were purchased from local cattle traders, whilst the Ongole bulls came from the herd at the Beef Cattle Research Institute. The average liveweight ( standard error) of Ongole, Limousin-Ongole and Brahman bulls at the start of the experiment was 157 4.5 kg, 171 4.9 kg, 188 6.9 kg, respectively. Average age of bulls was 1.2 0.7 years. Bulls were allocated to blocks based on liveweight, with one bull from each breed in each block. Bulls were housed in individual pens at the Beef Cattle Research Institute, East Java, Indonesia, and had free access to fresh drinking water at all times. The experiment consisted of a 2 week adaptation period when bulls were introduced to the pens and experimental diets, followed by a 16 week experimental period.

All bulls were fed chopped elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum) ad libitum. Elephant grass is widely used in Indonesia, and is of similar quality to a typical village diet. By feeding a single feedstuff rather than a mixed diet we could be confident that diet composition was the same for all animals. Composition of the grass used in the experiment is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Nutritive value of elephant grass offered to bulls during the experimental period

Components

Average

Standard error

Dry matter (%)

18.3

0.76

Organic matter (% DM)

88.6

0.26

Crude protein (% DM)

7.4

0.25

Ash-free neutral detergent fibre (% DM)

69.3

0.54

Ash-free acid detergent fibre (% DM)

44.8

0.82

Stem (% of feed offered, DM basis)

31

3.86

Feed intake was measured daily throughout the experimental period by subtracting the amount of feed refused from the weight of feed offered. Sub samples of feed offered were collected each day and dried at 60C to constant weight to determine dry matter (DM). Dried samples were bulked for each week and analysed for organic matter, crude protein, neutral detergent fibre (NDF) and acid detergent fibre (ADF). Organic matter was determined by combusting samples at 600C for 3 hours (AOAC 1990). Crude protein was determined using the Kjeldahl method. Neutral detergent fibre and acid detergent fibre were measured using the technique described by Goering and Soest (1970). The proportion of stem and leaf offered was measured by partitioning a sub-sample of the feed offered, then drying and weighing the components. Refusals of elephant grass for each bull were bulked every week and a subsample taken to analyse dry matter and organic matter content as described above.

Digestibility of elephant grass was determined by total faecal collection during weeks 4, 8 and 12 of the experimental period. Faeces were collected from each animal over 24 hours for 7 days in each week. Daily faecal output for each animal was weighed, mixed, and a 10% subsample collected and stored at -20C. At the end of each week, the faeces were thawed and bulked for each animal. Subsamples of the bulked faeces were dried at 60C for 72 hours to determine dry matter content. The dried samples were ground and organic matter was measured using the same protocol as for the feed samples. Organic matter digestibility (OMD) was calculated for each animal as: (organic matter intake –faecal organic matter)/organic matter intake.

Water intake of individual animals was measured during the digestibility periods. Water was offered in plastic buckets and the weight of the water consumed was recorded each day. Water consumption was corrected for evaporation. Total water intake was estimated from water consumed in the feed plus water from drinking.

Cattle were weighed once a week before feeding. Body condition score (1-5 scale) is a visual assessment of cattle condition, and was determined by a trained researcher at the time of weighing. The same person measured body condition score of the cattle each week. Feed conversion rate was calculated as the weight of elephant grass (kg DM) required for 1 kg of liveweight gain.

Data were analysed using ANOVA with blocking and pairwise comparisons in GenStat version 15. One Brahman bull was removed from the experiment in the second week after contracting bovine ephemeral fever, and data from this animal was not used in any analysis.

All procedures used in this experiment were approved by the University of Queensland Animal Ethics Committee in accordance with the Australian code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes.


Results

Limousin-Ongole bulls had the highest average daily gain and most efficient feed conversion, followed by Ongole and then Brahman bulls (Table 2). There was no difference in the average gain in body condition score (0.2 units, p = 0.06) between breeds over the duration of the experiment.

Growth of Brahman bulls was slower (p = 0.05) at the start of the experiment (0.03 kg/d, weeks 1 to 7) compared to the end of the experiment (weeks 8 to 16). Limousin-Ongole bulls showed the reverse pattern, with higher growth rates in the first seven weeks of the experiment (0.35 vs. 0.23 kg/d, p = 0.01). Growth of Ongole bulls was constant throughout the experiment (p = 0.7).

Table 2. Average intake, live weight gain, feed conversion rate and organic matter digestibility of Ongole (PO), Limousin-Ongole (LimPO) and Brahman (BX) bulls fed elephant grass ad libitum

Parameters

Cattle breed

SEM

p

PO

LimPO

BX

Dry matter intake (kg/day)

3.44a

3.86b

3.56a

1.10

<0.01

Crude protein intake (g/kg W0.75/day)

5.6a

5.6a

4.8b

0.10

<0.01

Live weight gain (kg/day)

0.18a

0.26b

0.11c

0.02

<0.01

Feed conversion rate (kg DM intake/kg live weight gain)

24ab

16a

34b

2.70

0.04

Total water intake (kg/kg W0.75/day)

0.40

0.47

0.41

0.02

0.14

In vivo organic matter digestibility (%)

61.6

62.3

61.3

0.47

0.49

abc Different letters within rows indicate differences between breeds at P = 0.05

Limousin-Ongole had the highest dry matter and crute protein intakes, while Brahman bulls had the lowest crude protein intakes (Table 2). There was no difference in dry matter feed intake between Ongole and Brahman bulls. There was no difference in average organic matter digestibility or total water intake between breeds (Table 2).

Brahman bulls were significantly younger than Ongole or Limousin-Ongole bulls at the start of the experiment (0.8 years, p< 0.001), but there was no difference in age between Ongole and Limousin-Ongole bulls (1.2 and 1.4 years, respectively). The average starting liveweight and body condition score of Brahman bulls was higher than Limousin-Ongole bulls, which was higher than Ongole bulls (p< 0.001). When the age, liveweight or condition of the bulls at the start of the experiment were used as covariates in the ANOVA, there was no difference in average daily liveweight gain and feed conversion between breeds.


Discussion

Under the conditions of this experiment, Limousin-Ongole bulls performed better than Ongole or Brahman bulls. Limousin-Ongole bulls had the highest average daily liveweight gain and the lowest feed conversion rate when fed elephant grass ad libitum (Table 2).

Differences in growth and feed conversion between breeds appear to be primarily related to differences in the age, liveweight and condition of bulls at the start of the experiment. These differences occurred because bulls had to be purchased from local farmers, feedlots and markets prior to the start of the experiment. The absence of cattle scales at most cattle markets and farms in Indonesia meant that the bulls were purchased based on an estimated liveweight. In addition, the history of most animals prior to the experiment was not known, and factors such as previous nutrition or stress during transport to the market may have affected their performance during the experiment. While these factors may have affected our results, they also reflect the current conditions in Indonesia and what can be achieved in village based systems.

Brahman bulls had the lower feed intake than Limousin-Ongole bulls and lowest average daily liveweight gain, and were the least efficient at converting feed into liveweight gain, with the lowest average feed conversion rate (Table 2). The Brahman bulls had lower growth rates at the start of the experiment compared to the end, indicating that they may have taken a long time to adapt to the experimental conditions. Many of these bulls were purchased from a feedlot, and had not previously been restrained in individual pens. This may have taken them several weeks to adapt to.

The Limousin-Ongole bulls showed the opposite growth pattern to the Brahman bulls, with higher growth rates in weeks 1 to 7 compared to weeks 8 to 16. This could be as result of the highest of feed intake of this breed (Table 2). These bulls were previously kept by smallholder farmers, and may have been exhibiting a degree of compensatory gain if they were fed poor quality diets before they were purchased for this experiment.

Growth of all cattle was below the genetic potential of each breed. For example, Soejosopoetro (2008) measured an average daily liveweight gain of 0.7 kg/d in Brahman bulls aged 1-1.5 years old and fed a diet consisting of elephant grass (80%) and rice straw (20%). Brahman bulls kept under feedlot conditions and fed concentrate-based diets can achieve gains in excess of 1 kg/head/day. Similarly, Carvalho et al (2010) reported daily liveweight gains of 0.86 kg/day for Ongole cattle and 0.99 kg/day for Ongole-Simmental bulls fed a mixed diet of concentrate, elephant grass, soybean hulls and cassava. Ngadiyono et al (2015) noted that daily liveweight gain of Ongole, BX and simental PO (SimPO) bulls given 15% elephant grass and 85% concentrate diets were 0.59, 1.56 and 1.04 kg/d, repectively. Mahendri et al (2006) reported average daily liveweight gains of 1.0 kg/day for Ongole bulls fed rice straw plus a concentrate comprised of coconut cake, cassava and soybean meal, while Irawan (2009) reported average daily liveweight gains of 0.69 kg/day for Ongole bulls fed king grass ad libitum. These results indicate that growth rates higher than those observed in our experiment are possible, even when bulls are fed diets containing large amounts of roughages. The low concentration of crude protein of the grass (7.4% of DM) could be one factor affecting the low growth of cattle in this current experiment. Protein is a critical nutrient in beef cattle diets to support the fermentation in rumen and their growth.


Conclusions


Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research for providing funding for this research, Dr Simon Quigley for his help with the experimental design, and the students from Brawijaya and Trunojoyo Madura Universities, casual workers, farm management and laboratory staff at BCRI for their help with the experiment.


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Received 1 November 2015; Accepted 19 July 2016; Published 1 September 2016

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