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


Short-Term Changes in Eating Patterns Explain the Effects of Condensed Tannins on Feed Intake in Heifers

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Applied Animal Behaviour Science







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Ingestion of condensed tannins decreases feed intake in ruminants. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) forms high-affinity complexes with tannins. In two experiments carried out on Holstein heifers, quebracho (Q) from the Aspidosperma quebracho served as source of condensed tannins. The aims of the study were (i) to quantify the effect of Q on feed intake and eating behaviour in cattle fed complete mixed diets (CMDs); (ii) to clarify if changes induced in ingestive behaviour and feed intake by Q in cattle can be reversed by feeding PEG; and (iii) to clarify if the decrease in feed intake is associated with short-term (astringency, post-ingestive malaise) or longer-term effects. In experiment 1, 500 g/day of Q was found to be the minimal dose that decreased feed intake in heifers. A ratio of PEG:Q equal to 1:12.5 did not fully restore feed intake. In experiment 2, four heifers received a random sequence of four rations in a Latin-square design with feeding cycles of ca. 7 days: CMD containing no supplements (C), or supplemented with 625 g/day of Q without PEG (Q), with 625 g/day of Q and 250 g/day of PEG (Q-PEG), or with 250 g/day of PEG without Q (PEG). Individual rations were continuously weighed in the trough and the behaviour of heifers was observed for 180 min after distribution of CMD. Overall, feeding Q was associated with lowered feed intake and shorter duration of eating bouts, mainly of the first eating bout, immediately after distribution of the diet. A larger portion of the diet was consumed subsequent to 180 min after distribution in Q-fed heifers. Eating rate and the water to food ratio were not affected by Q. The effects of Q on feed intake were attenuated by feeding PEG. Heifers adapted effectively to condensed tannins by increasing the number of eating bouts and the portion of diet consumed subsequent to 180 min after distribution, so that no differences in feed intake were noted on the last day of each feeding cycle. Data are interpreted to show that: (i) negative effects of Q on feed intake derive from astringency of CT and short-term post-ingestive malaise; (ii) the increased number of eating bouts and their wider partition throughout the day are means to preserve the ruminal environment in Q-fed heifers; (iii) PEG has the potential to neutralize negative effects of condensed tannins in cattle.


Originally published by Elsevier. Publisher's PDF and HTML fulltext available through remote link.