Overcoming Food Neophobia in Domestic Ruminants Through Addition of Familiar Flavor and Repeated Exposure to Novel Foods

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Applied Animal Behavior Science

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Food neophobia, observed as a decreased intake of novel foods, can cause significant livestock production losses. For example, in the transition from rangeland to feedlot, livestock are usually offered novel diets that they sample cautiously, gradually increasing intake. This familiarization period can slow weight gains and increase time to slaughter. This research examines two ways to overcome food neophobia. First, we determined if the addition of a familiar flavor would increase the acceptance of a novel food. Lambs (n = 30) were fed barley, onion-flavored barley, or onion-flavored rice twice a day for 4 days. All lambs were then offered onion-flavored rice. The lambs that had previously eaten onion-flavored barley ate more (P < 0.05) onion-flavored rice than those that had previously eaten unflavored barley. Second, we examined if repeated exposure to novel foods increased the acceptance of subsequent novel foods. Controlling for order of food offered, lambs (n = 72 total) were offered four novel foods (calf manna, corn, rice, and wheat bran) for 3 consecutive days each (12 days total). Lambs ate more (P < 0.05) of the fourth novel food than of the first novel food offered. These results indicate that flavor generalization and repeated exposure to novel foods may increase the acceptance of novel foods.

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