Influence of Supplemental Legumes that Contain Tannins and Saponins on Intake and Diet Digestibility in Sheep Fed Grasses that Contain Alkaloids

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My objectives were to determine if nutritional benefits occur when animals are offered foods with compounds -- alkaloids, saponins, and tannins – that are potentially complementary. I hypothesized that food intake and digestibility increase when lambs consume plants such as alfalfa ALF that contain saponins or birdsfoot trefoil (BFT) that contain tannins when the basal diet is endophyte-infected tall fescue (TF) or reed canarygrass (RCG) both of which contain alkaloids. I predicted that the nutritional status of lambs would be enhanced if basal diets of alkaloid-containing grasses were supplemented with ALF or BFT. Lambs fed a basal diet of either endophyte-infected TF or RCG ate more food and consequently digested more dry matter, energy and nitrogen when supplemented with ALF or BFT. Lambs ingested more dry matter and digested more nutrients when fed a iii basal diet of RCG than one of TF, and supplementing with ALF and BFT was more beneficial for lambs fed TF than for lambs fed RCG. Increased intake of digestible nutrients was due to greater intake when lambs were offered more than one food, not due to an increase in digestibility. In pen trials meant to complement the field trials, lambs were offered an alkaloidcontaining (either gramine or 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine) total mixed ration and supplemented with a food that contained saponins or tannins. All rations were isocaloric (3.3Mcal/kg) and isonitrogenous (14% CP). Lambs fed a ration with either alkaloid and offered a food containing saponin digested approximately the same amount of dry matter, energy, nitrogen, and NDF as lambs not offered saponin. When lambs were fed a ration with either alkaloid and supplemented with food that contained tannins, tannin consumption adversely affected dry matter, energy, and NDF digestibility, but lambs offered food with tannins increased dry matter intake, and as a result, they digested the same amount of dry matter, energy, and NDF as lambs not offered the food with tannins. Lambs offered tannin digested and retained more nitrogen than lambs not offered tannin. These findings indicate a nutritional advantage for sheep eating mixtures as opposed to monocultures of foods with different profiles of secondary compounds and nutrients.