Macropods, feral goats, sheep and cattle. 1. Equivalency in how much they eat.
The extent to which goats and cattle eat equivalent amounts of forage as sheep has been based on their maintenance energy requirements (MERs) relative to a 50 kg wether or dry ewe, known as a dry sheep equivalent (DSE). As such, a 50 kg goat was considered 1 DSE and a 450 kg steer as 7-8 DSE. In comparison, the DSE of macropods has been based on their basal metabolic rate (BMR) or energy expenditure of grazing (EEg) relative to those of sheep, with a 50 kg macropod thought to be 0.7 and 0.45 DSE respectively. Based on published energy requirements of goats, macropods and cattle relative to sheep, their DSE values are estimated to be 1.2, 1.0 and 7.6 respectively. However, relative energy requirements may not be the same as relative dry matter intakes (DMIs), due to differences in forage quality, the structure of digestive tracts and selective foraging capabilities. Allometric equations that predict DMI were developed from published liveweights and intakes of sheep, goats, macropods and cattle. Given DMIs when fed high-quality forage, a 50 kg goat was 1 DSE, a 50 kg macropod was 0.7 DSE and a 450 kg steer was 7.6 DSE. Their DMIs were depressed by 35-50% when fed low-quality forage, but a goat remained as 1 DSE, macropods increased to 1.0 DSE and cattle increased to 8.3 DSE. The capacity of macropods to maintain relatively higher DMIs of low-quality forage than sheep is probably due of their faster digesta passage rates and more expandable stomachs. These DMIs of animals provided ad-libitum quantities of similar forages in small pens are likely to differ from their DMIs when selectively grazing heterogeneous rangeland pastures. Under these conditions, sheep select higher-quality diets than cattle, and kangaroos select higher-quality diets than sheep, which increase the relative DMIs of the smaller herbivores. For this reason, a 50 kg macropod is likely to be 1 DSE and consume twice as much forage than previously assumed.