The effects of altering physical form and carbohydrate profile of giraffe diets were evaluated using six non-lactating adult female giraffe in a modified reversal study. Dietary treatments consisted of a supplement ration composed of commonly fed commercial concentrates (GF) and an experimental supplement (EF) containing greater concentrations of sugars and soluble fiber and lesser concentrations of starch than GF, as well as small, heavily lignified particles used to modify dietary fiber size and texture.
Each study animal was housed individually and fed EF or GF ad libitum for 21 days, and then received the other feed supplement in the subsequent 21 day period. Alfalfa hay, salt and water were offered ad libitum in all periods. In each period, blood samples were collected before feeding on day 21, feed refusals and fecal samples were collected on days 15 through 21, and behavior was recorded for 48 hr via observation and instantaneous sampling on days 13 through 15. Feed intake, blood measures, and
minutes spent exhibiting various behaviors were evaluated.Data were analyzed with a statistical model that included animal, period, and diet.
Data presented are least squares means. Significance was declared at P<0.10 and tendency at 0.10<P<0.15. Blood glucose (mg/dl) was lower in animals consuming EF than GF. Average daily DM intake varied greatly among animals for both alfalfa hay (0.12 to 3.94 kg/day) and supplement (2.87 to 9.26 kg/day), but did not differ between diets. Starch intake by giraffe decreased from 0.92 kg/day on GF to 0.12 kg/ day EF, sugar intake tended (P=0.115) to increase from 1.12 kg/day on GF to 1.53 kg/day on EF, and neutral detergent-soluble fiber (NDSF) intake increased from 0.85 kg/day on GF to 1.19 kg/day on EF. Time engaged in supplement consumption was greater on EF than GF and total feed consumption + rumination time tended to be greater on EF than GF, which may have increased saliva flow and buffering of the rumen. Despite few animals and high variability in their feed selection and intake, the data suggest that EF facilitated small but measurable changes in animal response. Further investigation with a larger population of animals is needed.