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Inclusion of chia seeds (Salvia hispanica L.) and pumpkin seeds (Cucurbita moschata) in dairy sheep diets.

Chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seed (CS) and Pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata) seed (PS) are used in ruminant diets as energy sources. The current experiment studied the impact of dietary inclusion of CS and PS on nutrient intake and digestibility, milk yield, and milk composition of dairy sheep. Twelve primiparous Texel × Suffolk ewes [70 ± 5 days in milk (DIM); 0.320 ± 0.029 kg milk yield] were distributed in a 4 × 3 Latin square design and fed either a butter-based control diet [CON; 13 g/kg dry matter] or two diets with 61 g/kg DM of either CS or PS. Dietary inclusion of CS and PS did not alter live weight (p >0.1) and DM intake (p >0.1). However, compared to the CON, dietary inclusion of both CS and PS increased the digestibility of neutral detergent fiber (p <0.001) and acid detergent lignin (p < 0.001). Milk production (p = 0.001), fat-corrected milk (p < 0.001), and feed efficiency (p < 0.001) were enhanced with PS, while the highest milk protein yield (p < 0.05) and lactose yield (p < 0.001) were for CS-fed ewes. Compared to the CON diet, the ingestion of either CS and/or PS decreased (p < 0.001) the C16:0 in milk. Moreover, both CS and PS tended to enhance the content of C18:3n6 (p > 0.05) and C18:3n3 (p > 0.05). Overall short-term feeding of CS and/or PS (up to 6.1% DM of diet) not only maintains the production performance and digestibility of nutrients but also positively modifies the milk FA composition.

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