Preferences for Foods Varying in Macronutrients and Tannins by Lambs Supplemented with Polyethylene Glycol

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Journal of Animal Science

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Supplemental polyethylene glycol (PEG) increases intake when animals eat foods high in tannins, but little is known about how PEG affects preference for foods that vary in concentrations of macronutrients and tannin. We investigated how varying macronutrients and tannins (commercially available extracts from quebracho trees) affected food intake, and we assessed the degree to which PEG (MW 3350) affected intake of tannin-rich foods by sheep. From 0715 to 1800 daily, lambs were offered diets that varied in concentrations of macronutrients: high energy/low protein (75% barley/25% alfalfa), medium energy/medium protein (35% barley/65% alfalfa), and low energy/high protein (100% alfalfa). Preference for these diets was determined in the absence of tannin, and then, in Trials 1 to 3, tannin was added in increasing concentrations (from 5 to 20%) to the diets with high and medium levels of energy. In Trial 4, tannin (10%) also was added to the low-energy diet. Lambs were supplemented with either 50 g of PEG mixed with 50 g of ground barley or 50 g of ground barley alone from 0700 to 1715 daily; lambs always consumed all of these supplements. In the absence of added tannins, all lambs preferred high energy/low protein > medium energy/medium protein > low energy/high protein. As tannin levels increased, preference for the high- and medium-energy foods decreased, and all lambs preferred foods that were lower in tannins and higher in protein. Lambs supplemented with PEG ate more macronutrients and tannins than unsupplemented lambs, and the effect became increasingly apparent as tannin levels increased from Trials 1 to 4. We conclude that the effectiveness of supplemental PEG may be low if alternative forages are equal or superior in nutritional quality and contain fewer metabolites with adverse effects. In such cases, animals would likely prefer alternatives to high-tannin foods.

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