Behavioral Education for Human, Animal, Vegetation, and Ecosystem Management (BEHAVE)


Preference of Sheep for Foods Varying in Flavors and Nutrients

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journal of Animal Science






American Society of Animal Science

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Last Page



Our objective was to better understand the importance of flavor and nutrients in food preferences of lambs. Three foods differing in flavor and nutritional quality were created by grinding and mixing grape pomace, barley, alfalfa pellets, and soybean meal in different proportions. food 1 (2.21 Mcal/kg DE, 8.1% DP), food 2 (2.42 Mcal/kg DE, 11.0% DP), and food 3 (2.68 Mcal/kg DE, 13.8% DP). Intake of each food, offered singly and together, was assessed when foods 2 and 3 were flavored with 1% onion or 1% oregano. Lambs (n = 24) preferred food 3 > 2 > 1, regardless of flavor (P < .05), and they continued to prefer food 3 > 2 > 1, even when they received the toxin LiCl after eating one of the three foods (P < .05). When offered a choice, lambs always ate substantial amounts of all three foods, even though they might have been expected to eat food 3 exclusively. We hypothesize selection of a varied diet resulted from a decrease in preference for food just eaten as a result of sensory input (taste, odor, texture, i.e., a food's flavor) and postingestive feedback (effects of nutrients and toxins on chemo-, osmo-, and mechano-receptors) unique to each food. Thus, we submit that offering different foods of similar nutritional value, offering foods of different nutritional value, and offering the same food in different flavors are all means of enhancing food preference and intake.


Originally published by the American Society of Animal Science.

Publisher's PDF and abstract available through remote link.