Original Articles

Feeding characteristics of sheep (Ovis aries) and Grant's gazelles (Gazella granti) on Kapiti ranch, Kenya


Abstract

A study was conducted to determine the dietary characteristics of sheep and Grant's gazelles on Kapiti Ranch, Kenya. The botanical composition of the diet was determined using the faecal microhistological technique. Plant species in the diets were categorised into grass, forb and browse classes. Shannon-Wiener and Morisita's similarity indices were used to express dietary diversity and overlap respectively. Simulated diets, based on microhistology results, were analysed for crude protein, neutral detergent fibre, acid detergent fibre, cellulose, lignin and in vitro dry matter digestibility. Sheep were predominantly grazers during both the dry and wet season while Grant's gazelles were mixed feeders, with a higher consumption of grasses during the wet season and an equal consumption of both grasses and browse during the dry season. Diets of Grant's gazelles were more diverse than those of sheep during both seasons. Degree of dietary overlap between the animal species was highest during the wet season. There were differences (P < 0.05) in dietary nutrient content between the animal species, within seasons. Dry matter digestibility was higher (P < 0.05) for both species during the wet season. Neutral detergent fibre, acid detergent fibre, lignin and cellulose were significantly higher (P < 0.05) during the dry season. Sheep diets were higher (P < 0.05) in crude protein during the wet season, whereas crude protein was higher (P < 0.05) in the Grant's gazelles diet during the dry season than in the wet season. This study indicates that sheep and Grant's gazelles are compatible in their use of vegetation on Athi Kapiti plains.

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