Effects of breed, sex, and age on the variation and ability of fecal near-infrared reflectance spectra to predict the composition of goat diets.
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The effects of breed, sex, and age of goats on fecal near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy-predicted percentage juniper in the diet were investigated, as were spectral differences in feces from goats differing in estimated genetic merit for juniper consumption. Eleven goats from each breed, sex, and age combination, representing 2 breeds (Angora and meat-type), 3 sex classifications (female, intact male, and castrated male), and 2 age categories [adult and kid (less than 12 mo of age)] were fed complete, pelleted rations containing 0 or 14% juniper. After 7 d on the same diet, fecal samples were collected for 3 d, and the spectra from the 3 replicate samples were averaged. Fecal samples were assigned to calibration or validation data sets. In a second experiment, Angora and meat goats with high or low estimated genetic merit for juniper consumption were fed the same diet to determine the effect of consumer group on fecal spectra. Feces were scanned in the 1,100- to 2,500-nm range with a scanning reflectance monochromator. Fecal spectra were analyzed for the difference in spectral characteristics and for differences in predicted juniper in the diet using internal and independent calibration equations. Internal calibration had a high precision (R(2) = 0.94), but the precision of independent validations (r(2) = 0.56) was low. Spectral differences were affected by diet, sex, breed, and age (P < 0.04). However, diet was the largest source of variation in spectral differences. Predicted percentage of juniper in the diet also showed that diet was the largest source of variation, accounting for 95% of the variation in predictions from internal calibrations and 51% of the variation in independent validations. Predictions from independent calibrations readily detected differences (P < 0.001) in the percentage of juniper in the 2 diets, and the predicted differences were similar to the actual differences. Predicted juniper in the diet was also affected by sex. Feces from goats from different juniper consumer groups fed a common diet were spectrally different, and the difference may have resulted from a greater intake by high- compared with low-juniper-consuming goats. Fecal near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy predictions of botanical composition of diets should be considered an interval scale of measurement.