Respiration chambers are considered the ‘gold standard’ technique for measuring in vivo methane (CH4) emissions in live animals. However, the imposed isolation required may alter feeding behaviour and intake, which ultimately impact CH4 emissions. The aim of this study was to assess the impact of isolation within respiration chambers on feed intake and CH4 emissions with two different diets and breeds of beef cattle. In addition, a routine stressor (transport) was used to examine the relationship between individual stress responsiveness and changes in feed intake during isolation. Eighty-four steers (castrated males) (569 ± 5.7 kg bodyweight, BW) were divided into two groups and each group fed with one of two basal diets consisting of (g/kg dry matter, DM) either 50 : 50 (Mixed) or 8 : 92 (Concentrate) forage to concentrate ratios. Within each basal diet there were three supplementation treatments: (1) control, (2) calcium nitrate, and (3) rapeseed cake. The stress biomarkers plasma cortisol, creatine kinase (CK), and free fatty acids (FFA) were determined before (0 h) and after (30 min, 3 h, 6 h and 9 h) a 30-min journey, when steers were transported to the respiration chamber facilities. Methane emissions were measured over a 3-day period using individual respiration chambers. Dry matter intake (DMI) was assessed within the group-housed pens (4 weeks before entry to training pen), in the training pens and the chambers. Cortisol, FFA and CK increased (P < 0.05) after transport confirming a stress response. DMI (g/kg BW) decreased (P < 0.001) during isolation in the training pens (14.7 ± 0.28) and the chambers (14.3 ± 0.26) compared with that of the same animals in the group pens (16.8 ± 0.23). DMI during isolation decreased more in those animals which had an increased (P < 0.05) stress response during transport as measured by cortisol, FFA and CK. With the Mixed diet, the decline in DMI was estimated to result in an increase in CH4 (g/kg DMI) (r = 0.25, P = 0.001), which did not occur with the Concentrate diet. According to the results of this experiment, the stress associated with isolation reduces the DMI resulting in an increase in g CH4/kg DMI in fibrous diets. Habituation to isolation needs refinement in order to reduce the impact of stress on intake and therefore achieve more accurate estimates of CH4 emissions. Alternatively, modelling CH4 estimations according to behavioural and physiological changes associated with isolation stress would improve accuracy of CH4 estimations.
|Journal||Animal Production Science|
|Publication status||First published - 2016|
- Beef cattle
- Feeding behaviour
- Stress physiology