Seasonal Patterns of Energy Allocation to Basal Metabolism, Activity and Production for Livestock in a Nomadic Pastoral Ecosystem

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Journal of Agricultural Science (Cambridge)

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Energy budgets and estimates of forage intake requirements were developed for adult camels, cattle, sheep, and goats managed by nomads in the arid Turkana District of north-western Kenya. The estimates were developed by combining our field data on livestock activity patterns, diet quality, weight changes and milk yields with literature based estimates of the associated costs and efficiencies. On an annual basis, the average animal walked 17 km/day and had a total metabolizable energy (ME) allocation of 47% for basal metabolism, 16% for travel, 14% for other activities, and 23% for production. Season and species influenced patterns of energy demand and allocation. Average daily ME requirements ranged from 8·7 MJ (sheep) to 76·7 MJ (camels). ME demand for all species peaked during wet (April-May) or early-to mid-dry periods (June-October), and decreased considerably in the late-dry season (November-March). In the wet season the average sheep or goat allocated 45% of its ME budget to production of milk and gain, followed by cattle (36%) and camels (25%). All species were more similar in ME allocation for production during the late-dry season (7–13%; all to lactation), yet patterns of weight loss during this time indicated that camels experienced the lowest degree of negative energy balance. On an annual basis, camel budgets were the most deviant, as they allocated relatively more ME to activity and relatively less to basal metabolism or weight gain. Estimates of forage dry-matter intakes (per unit live weight per day) ranged from 3·8% (cattle, camels) to 4·6% (sheep, goats) throughout the year, and intakes declined for most species by an average of 50% from the wet to late-dry intervals. This approach has revealed ecological differences among livestock species that help explain the utility of multi-species holdings in this system.

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