Conclusion

Experiments have shown that plant wax alkanes permit an accurate estimate of total diet digestibility and intake, plus an estimate of the species composition of the diet. It thus becomes possible to define the nutrient intake of the grazing animal with much greater accuracy, and also to define those parts of the plant biomass preferred by the animals. This has ramifications for the sustainability of the system, by identifying plants at risk of overgrazing, and also for plant breeding, by indicating which plants the animals prefer. Similarly, since the proportion of supplement in the total intake can be defined, the interaction between supplement and herbage can be quantified much better, with major ramifications for the management of supplementary feeding, one of the largest discretionary costs in grazing systems.

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