Tibetan sheep are better able to cope with low energy intake than Small-tailed Han sheep due to lower maintenance energy requirements and higher nutrient digestibilities

X. P. Jing, J. W. Zhou, W. J. Wang, A. A. Degen, Y. M. Guo, J. P. Kang, W. X. Xu, P. P. Liu, C. Yang, F. Y. Shi, Q. Yan, L. M. Ding, Z. H. Shang, V. Fievez, R. J. Long

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Abstract

Tibetan sheep are indigenous to the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP) and are well-adapted to and even thrive under the harsh alpine conditions. Small-tailed Han sheep were introduced to the plateau because of their high prolificacy and are maintained mainly in feedlots. Because of their different backgrounds, we hypothesised that Tibetan and Small-tailed Han sheep would differ in their utilization of energy intake and predicted that Tibetan sheep would cope better with low energy intake than Small-tailed Han sheep. To test this prediction, we determined nutrient digestibilities, energy requirements for maintenance and blood metabolite and hormone concentrations involved in energy metabolism in these breeds. Sheep of each breed (n = 24 of each, all wethers and 1.5 years of age) were distributed randomly into one of four groups and offered ad libitum diets of different digestible energy (DE) densities: 8.21, 9.33, 10.45 and 11.57 MJ DE/kg Dry matter (DM). Following 42 d of measuring feed intake, a 1-week digestion and metabolism experiment was done. DM intakes did not differ between breeds nor among treatments but, by design, DE intake increased linearly in both breeds as dietary energy level increased (P < 0.001). The average daily gain (ADG) was significantly greater in the Tibetan than Small-tailed Han sheep (P = 0.003) and increased linearly in both breeds (P < 0.001). In addition, from the regression analysis of ADG on DE intake, daily DE maintenance requirements were lower for Tibetan than for Small-tailed Han sheep (0.41 vs 0.50 MJ/BW0.75, P < 0.05). The DE and metabolizable energy (ME) digestibilities were higher in the Tibetan than Small-tailed Han sheep (P < 0.001) and increased linearly as the energy level increased in the diet (P < 0.001). At the lowest energy treatment, Tibetan sheep when compared with Small-tailed Han sheep, had: 1) higher serum glucose and glucagon, but lower insulin concentrations (P < 0.05), which indicated a higher capacity for gluconeogenesis and ability to regulate glucose metabolism; and 2) higher non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) and lower very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) and triglyceride (TG) concentrations (P < 0.05), which indicated a higher capacity for NEFA oxidation but lower ability for triglyceride (TG) synthesis. We concluded that our prediction was supported as these differences between breeds conferred an advantage for Tibetan over Small-tailed Han sheep to cope better with low energy diets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114200
JournalAnimal Feed Science and Technology
Volume254
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019

Keywords

  • Dietary energy level
  • Energy conversion efficiency
  • Energy metabolism regulation
  • Small-tailed Han sheep
  • Tibetan sheep

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