To separate ingestive factors involving palatability from post-ingestive factors responsible for forage intake being depressed by ensiling, silages were evaluated using sham-fed animals. Protocol for all experiments was to formulate low dry matter (DM) silages from a high DM lucerne silage reconstituted with either water, solutions containing constituents commonly found in silage, or extracts of low DM silage. Solutions of silage constituents were adjusted before reconstitution to a pH typical of silage. Tests were performed by offering silages one at a time once daily to oesophageal fistulated sheep, maintained on lucerne hay, but starved for 5 h prior to the test. Intake was measured over 30 min. Sheep were adapted to intermediate levels of each test ingredient(s) before experiments were done to evaluate effects of four to five levels of each ingredient using Latin-square designs. Animals were sham fed during both periods of adaptation and of testing ingredient levels. Mean of 30-min intakes for control silages was 573 g DM. Lactic and acetic acids added together, to levels of 53·2 and 35·4 g/kg, respectively, enhanced intake with a linear response due to level (P < 0·05). Acetic acid added by itself to 88·0 g/kg depressed intake with a linear response due to level (P < 0·05) in which 10 g/kg added acetic acid depressed 30-min intake by 13·5 g. Acetic and butyric acids added together to levels of 36·2 and 54·4 g/kg respectively, were without effect as was ammonia added to 3·8 g/kg as ammonia nitrogen (N). A mixture of free amino acids added to a level of 9·2 g amino-N per kg was without effect, but at a level of 13·8 g/kg, intake was depressed to proportionately 0·75 of the control. A mixture of two amines and gamma amino butyric acid added to a level of 4·6 g N per kg caused a quadratic response (P < 005) in which intermediate levels enhanced intake but the highest level was without effect. An extract from good-quality silage had no effect on intake and that from a poor-quality silage enhanced intake in a linear manner (P < 0·05). These data indicate that elevation of acetic acid in silage without increases in amounts of other constituents decreased intake of silage through an effect on palatability. This conclusion modifies interpretation on the significance of palatability, determined from studies of ingestive behaviour of ruminants, as a factor to explain reduced intake of sheep given silage.
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