Supplemental Energy and Protein Increase Use of Sagebrush by Sheep
Small Ruminant Research
Dziba, L., Provenza, F., Villalba, J., & Atwood, S. (2007). Supplemental energy and protein increase use of sagebrush by sheep. Small Ruminant Research, 69(1-3), 203-207.
The ability of sheep to consume big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.), a shrub that contains terpenes, may be improved with supplemental energy and protein needed for detoxification processes. We compared feeding behavior of supplemented and unsupplemented ewes grazing separately in three 0.5 ha plots of 40 m × 120 m during October 2001. Supplemented ewes were offered a choice of a high-energy (50% corn and 50% beet pulp—3.62 Mcal/kg DE and 9.5% CP) and a high-protein (85% alfalfa and 15% soybean meal—2.89 Mcal/kg DE and 15% CP) supplement for 15 min/day. Supplemented ewes consumed 492 g (S.E. = 24.3) of the high-energy supplement and 140 g (S.E. = 9.8) of the high-protein supplement. The incidence of feeding on sagebrush was recorded using scan sampling at 10-min intervals from 09:00 to 17:00 h every other day for 10 days. Incidence of feeding on sagebrush increased gradually for both treatments from 0.4% on day 1 to 28% on day 10 (P < 0.01), but supplemented ewes increased feeding frequency on sagebrush to nearly twice that of unsupplemented ewes by the end of the trial. Averaged throughout the trial, incidence of eating sagebrush was twice as high for supplemented compared to unsupplemented ewes (22% versus 11% of the total time feeding, P < 0.01). The results of this study show that supplemental macronutrients increase use of sagebrush by ewes. Thus, strategic supplementation during fall and winter may be a way to increase intake of sagebrush by sheep and enhance and maintain biodiversity in areas of the sagebrush steppe where sagebrush is deemed too abundant.