The assessment of supplementation requirements of grazing ruminants using nutrition models
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This paper was aimed to summarize known concepts needed to comprehend the intricate interface between the ruminant animal and the pasture when predicting animal performance, acknowledge current efforts in the mathematical modeling domain of grazing ruminants, and highlight current thinking and technologies that can guide the development of advanced mathematical modeling tools for grazing ruminants. The scientific knowledge of factors that affect intake of ruminants is broad and rich, and decision-support tools (DST) for modeling energy expenditure and feed intake of grazing animals abound in the literature but the adequate predictability of forage intake is still lacking, remaining a major challenge that has been deceiving at times. Despite the mathematical advancements in translating experimental research of grazing ruminants into DST, numerous shortages have been identified in current models designed to predict intake of forages by grazing ruminants. Many of which are mechanistic models that rely heavily on preceding mathematical constructions that were developed to predict energy and nutrient requirements and feed intake of confined animals. The data collection of grazing (forage selection, grazing behavior, pasture growth/regrowth, pasture quality) and animal (nutrient digestion and absorption, volatile fatty acids production and profile, energy requirement) components remains a critical bottleneck for adequate modeling of forage intake by ruminants. An unresolved question that has impeded DST is how to assess the quantity and quality, ideally simultaneously, of pasture forages given that ruminant animals can be selective. The inadequate assessment of quantity and quality has been a hindrance in assessing energy expenditure of grazing animals for physical activities such as walking, grazing, and forage selection of grazing animals. The advancement of sensors might provide some insights that will likely enhance our understanding and assist in determining key variables that control forage intake and animal activity. Sensors might provide additional insights to improve the quantification of individual animal variation as the sensor data are collected on each subject over time. As a group of scientists, however, despite many obstacles in animal and forage science research, we have thrived, and progress has been made. The scientific community may need to change the angle of which the problem has been attacked, and focus more on holistic approaches.
author list (cited authors)
Tedeschi, L. O., Molle, G., Menendez, H. M., Cannas, A., & Fonseca, M. A.