Body fatness affects feed intake of sheep at a given body weight
In a 1-yr experiment, nutritional treatments were used to produce different combinations of BW and BCS in lambs. The experiment served to quantify the effects of BW and BCS on ADFI by sheep. Ewe lambs (n = 78) were assigned to treatment groups that had ad libitum access to one feed at a time. Three feeds were used: a medium-quality chopped hay (L), a pelleted feed based on oat feed (M), and a pelleted feed based on barley (H). Three groups received only one of these feeds throughout. Two groups first received H and then were switched to M when they reached a BW of 45 or 65 kg. Two groups first received L and then were switched to M or H after reaching a BW of 45 kg. Three groups first received H or M but were switched to L after reaching a BW of 45, 65, or 95 kg. Daily feed intake, BW, and BCS were recorded, and ME content of the feeds was estimated in a separate digestibility experiment. The lambs consuming M ate more (P < 0.001) feed than lambs consuming H, but this had no significant effects on ME intake or gain in BW or BCS. Animals that had had access to L were lean for their BW when switched to H or M and showed compensatory intake and gain. Animals switched from M or H to L all lost BCS; BW change depended on the BW at the switch. The treatments produced different combinations of BW and BCS for animals with access to the same feed. The ADFI of a given feed varied systematically with BCS for animals of a given BW. The model ADFI = a x BW x [1 - (b x BCS)] gave a reasonable description of the data in all treatments. A model using BW, BCS, and their interaction gave a slightly better fit but explained little more of the variation in ADFI than the simpler model. The implications of the collected data are that BW alone is an insufficient descriptor of the animal to correctly predict feed intake and that intake predictions can be improved by taking BCS into account.