Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)

Studies on the weight of the gastrointestinal tract, digesta composition and occurrence of gastro- and enteroliths in adult domesticated ostriches fed different diets

Comminuting the ingested material in the stomach and fermentation in the large intestine of ostriches, allows an efficient utilization of fiber-rich feedstuffs. The entire gastrointestinal tract (GIT) of 61 adult ostriches (both sexes; av. age of 15 mo), which had previously been fed a ration consisting of either haylage and pelleted compound feed (HP) or haylage, corn silage and pelleted compound feed (HCP), was the subject of the present investigations. The weight of the different compartments of the GIT was measured. The digesta was differentiated into inorganic and organic substances. Wet sieving was used to separate the collected stones (>19 mm), small stones (1 mm), and sand (<1 mm). Ostriches fed the HCP diet had a significantly higher empty gizzard weight (3,435 g) compared to those fed the HP diet (3,064 g). Additionally, the weight of the empty cecum (left and right parts) was increased (P < 0.05) for ostriches fed the HCP diet (107 and 122 g, respectively) in comparison to those fed the HP diet (93.4 and 108 g, respectively). The weight of pure digesta in the gizzard and left or right cecum for ostriches fed the HP diet was higher (1,640, 448, and 471 g, respectively) compared to those fed the HCP diet (P < 0.05). The contents of crude ash and HCl-insoluble ash in the digesta of all the GIT compartments were higher for ostriches fed the HP diet in comparison to those fed the HCP diet (P < 0.05). Independent of the type of the offered diet, the large stones occurred only in the proventriculus and gizzard (2.71 and 4.76%, respectively), while sand dominated in the distal colon (30.3%). The high proportion of stones in the gizzard form the "mechanical equipment" which enables the animals to grind basic feed such as corn silage or haylage, and these are almost completely excreted as sand. Continuous stone replacement for ostriches is necessary but the amount mostly depends on the type of feed.

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