The energetic cost of maintenance in ruminants: From classical to new concepts and prediction systems
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The cost of maintenance makes up a large part of total energy costs in ruminants. Metabolizable energy (ME) requirement for maintenance (MEm) is the daily ME intake that exactly balances heat energy (HE). The net energy requirement for maintenance (NEm) is estimated subtracting MEm from the HE produced by the processing of the diet. Men cannot be directly measured experimentally and is estimated by measuring basal metabolism in fasted animals or by regression measuring the recovered energy in fed animals. MEm and NEm usually, but not always, are expressed in terms of BW0.75. However, this scaling factor is substantially empirical and its exponent is often inadequate, especially for growing animals. MEm estimated by different feeding systems (AFRC, CNCPS, CSIRO, INRA, NRC) were compared by using dairy cattle data. The comparison showed that these systems differ in the approaches used to estimate MEm and for its quantification. The CSIRO system estimated the highest MEm, mostly because it includes a correction factor to increase ME as the feeding level increases. Relative to CSIRO estimates, those of NRC, INRA, CNCPS, and AFRC were on average 0.92, 0.86, 0.84, and 0.78, respectively. MEm is affected by the previous nutritional history of the animals. This phenomenon is best predicted by dynamic models, of which several have been published in the last decades. They are based either on energy flows or on nutrient flows. Some of the different approaches used were described and discussed.