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Where do herbivores get calorie from?

Does eating non-grain plant alone provide enough calorie for herbivores? Are there any herbivore that only eat non-grain plant, such as hay, grass, leave, etc?

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qrobertson50c profile image
a0c8cac37146 profile image

The answer depends on the production goal for the herbivore in question. If, for example, you have a herd of holstein cattle that you wish would average 23,000 pounds of milk per animal per year, the answer becomes no. There are inadequate calories available in forage leaves to maintain that level of production. If the same herd has a production goal of 18,000 (called rolling herd average), then the answer becomes maybe, it depends on the forage production potential (how much and what kind of forage can be produced). If, on the other hand, the goal is 12,000, the probably.

Meat production is similar. If one desires an average daily gain of 4 pounds per head per day, it becomes doubtful that forage alone will produce that average over a herd of 100 head or more (yep some individuals on some studies have done so, but not many), 2+ pounds ADG is very possible in some grazing systems, whereas 1 pound ADG is possible in most (depending on stocking rate) grazing systems.

So it depends on the animal production goals and the potential forage production system.

btw, the first commenter is incorrect, most herbivores across the world get little to no grain. Even in the USA, grain supplementation is limited in most beef animals (pretty much slaughter animals) due to excessive cost and low profit margin.

Reference: gotta posthole digger in the subject at hand.