The aim of this study was to evaluate the Small Ruminant Nutrition System (SRNS) model’s
performance predictions for lambs under South African conditions using growth and body composition
data of early- (Dorper) and late-maturing (South African Mutton Merino), indigenous sheep breeds. The
Cornell Net Carbohydrate and Protein System (CNCPS) biological model has consistently been
modified to include recent information. This has led to the development of the SRNS model, but up to
now the SRNS model has only been validated with European sheep breeds under European
Thirty two Dorper, 16 male and 16 female lambs, and 36 South African Mutton Merino, 18 male and 18
female lambs, were fed a grower diet for the experimental period of 60 days. Three groups of lambs of
each breed were slaughtered as the lambs reached pre-determined target weights. The first group of
24 animals (slaughter group 1) was slaughtered at the onset of the experiment at a live weight of 20 kg.
With the second group (slaughter group 2) the South African Mutton Merinos were slaughtered at an
average weight of 35 kg and the Dorpers at an average weight of 30 kg. The last group (slaughter
group 3) had an average weight of 50 kg for the South African Mutton Merinos and 40 kg for the Dorpers at slaughter. Using the data from this trial, predictions of the average daily gain (ADG), feed intake (DMI), empty
body gain and the composition of the empty body gain were used to evaluate the model. The animals
were divided into three slaughter groups, based on growth stage, for the determination of body
composition data. Energy value of gain (EVG), fat and protein content on a shrunk and empty body
weight basis were compared with the corresponding values predicted by the SRNS. Growth
composition of the lambs was determined by dividing them into two growth periods. Average daily gain
and DMI were evaluated in the experiment, and results compared to the mean ADG and DMI
predictions obtained from the SNRS model.
Two different equations were compared to estimate EVG and two sets of coefficients were also
compared for the EVG. Five different equations were compared to estimate the efficiency of conversion
of metabolisable energy (ME) to net energy (NE) for gain, kg. The correction factor to adjust for the
increase in the size of the visceral organs as nutrient intake increases and the coefficient for the effect
of gender on maintenance requirements were tested for relevance of use in the SRNS. Overall, based
on these evaluations it appears that the original SRNS model gave the best predictions when compared
to any of the modifications tested.
With regards to ADG the model over-predicts the requirements of the lambs in the early growth stage
and under-predicts the requirements of the lambs in the later growth stage. The DMI predictions that
were made using the original SRNS were accurate. The evaluation of the SNRS predictions in relation
to the composition of gain indicated that this model over-predicted both the fat and the protein content
of gain. The predictions were accurate, however the precision was low. The low precision was probably
due to the lack of variation in the measured range of fat and protein content of gain.
Before field application further studies and adjustments to the SRNS model is required, especially with
regard to predictions on the fat and protein content of gain and over or under predictions of ADG during
different growth stages of Dorper and South African Mutton Merino lambs.