Potential of tannin-rich plants,Leucaena leucocephala, Glyricidia sepiumandManihot esculenta,to reduce enteric methane emissions in sheep

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An in vivo trial was conducted in sheep to investigate the effect of three tropical tannin-rich plants (TRP) on methane emission, intake and digestibility. The TRP used were leaves of Glyricidia sepium, Leucaena leucocephala and Manihot esculenta that contained, respectively, 39, 75 and 92 g condensed tannins/kg DM. Methane was determined with the sulphur hexafluoride tracer technique. Eight rumen-cannulated sheep of two breeds (four Texel, four Blackbelly) were used in two 4 × 4 Latin square designs. Four experimental diets were tested. They consisted in a tropical natural grassland hay based on Dichanthium spp. fed alone (C) or in association with G. sepium (G), L. leucocephala (L) or M. esculenta (M) given as pellets at 44% of the daily ration. Daily organic matter intake was higher in TRP diets (686, 984, 1054 and 1186 g/day for C, G, L and M respectively; p < 0.05) while apparent organic matter total tract digestibility was not affected (69.9%, 62.8%, 65.3% and 64.7% for C, G, L and M respectively; p > 0.05). Methane emission was 47.1, 44.9, 33.3 and 33.5 g/kg digestible organic matter intake for C, G, L and M, respectively, and was significantly lower (p < 0.05) for L and M than for G and C. Our results confirm the potential of some TRP to reduce methane production. The strong decrease in methane and the increase in intake with TRPs may be due to their presentation as pellets.

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