The feeding behaviour of Mamber dairy goats grazing on Mediterranean woodland in the Upper Galilee mountains of Israel was studied throughout a year (1991/92). The percentages of crude protein (CP), neutral detergent fibre (NDF), acid detergent fibre (ADF), acid detergent lignin (ADL) and condensed tannins (CT) were determined in samples collected by hand to simulate the plant parts selected by the goats. Total feed intake was evaluated by using Cr-sesquioxide as an external marker to determine the amount of faeces excreted, and 48 h in sacco degradability to assess the digestibility of samples. Overall, more time was spent by goats in feeding on ligneous material (tree and shrub foliage) than herbaceous vegetation (60 and 40% of total feeding time, respectively, P<0·05). The main ligneous species consumed by the goats were Quercus calliprinos, Sarcopoterium spinosum and Calicotome villosa (20, 13 and 7% of total grazing time, respectively). There was considerable variability in the 48 h dry matter (DM) in sacco degradability, and in the concentration of CP, NDF, ADF, ADL and CT, within and between seasons and plant species. Although requirements for nutrients varied according to the physiological stage of the goats, 48 h in sacco DM degradability and the concentration of non-ADF linked (available) CP, NDF, ADF, ADL and CT in the diet did not vary greatly: respective ranges were 45·0–49·4; 9–12·5; 44–53; 33–39; 12–17 and 3·5–4·7%. It is concluded that Mamber goats (i) may not select the best quality diet available, but may avoid wide variations in nutrient content of their diets throughout the year; and (ii) may not select a diet consistent with maximization of milk yield, but rather with optimization of body condition at the onset of the mating season.
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