Sagebrush Ingestion by Lambs: Effects of Experience and Macronutrients
Journal of Range Management
We investigated how experience early in life and macronutrient content of the diet influenced intake of mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ssp. vaseyana (Rydb.) Beetle) by sheep. In the first part of our study, 2-month-old lambs were exposed as a group for 2 mo to a 70% barley-30% soybean meal ration (300 g/hd/day) that contained increasing amounts sagebrush (1 to 20%). Control lambs received grain without sagebrush. All lambs had access to alfalfa hay and pellets ad libitum. When lambs were tested at 6 months of age, prior exposure had no effect on sagebrush consumption after the first 4 days of the trial. When sagebrush comprised 20% of an alfalfa/barley ration, lambs ate the sagebrush ration readily even when a nutritious alternative was offered indicating the flavor of sagebrush did not prevent lambs from feeding. Increasing the amount of sagebrush in the ration from 50% to 75% resulted in lambs eating less of the barley/sagebrush ration, but daily intake of sagebrush remained constant throughout the 4 day trial, presumably because toxins (terpenes) limited intake of sagebrush. In the second part of our study, lambs experienced with sagebrush were fed 250 g/hd/day of barley, and nutritional status was varied by offering alfalfa pellets at 33% or 80% of ad libitum (1.2 and 2.7 times maintenance, respectively) to determine if dietary energy levels affected intake of sagebrush. Each day lambs received a 50/50 sagebrush/barley supplement ad libitum for 1 hour. Lambs fed at 33% of ad libitum consumed more of the sagebrush/barley supplement than lambs fed at 80% of ad libitum. Thus, additional energy did not enable lambs to consume more sagebrush. In the last trial, lambs in both treatments were fed a basal ration of alfalfa pellets at 50% of ad libitum. Each morning for 1 hour, lambs were offered macronutrient supplements containing either 50% barley/50% sagebrush (high energy) or 25% barley/25% soybean meal/50% sagebrush (high energy and protein). Lambs consumed the same amount of sagebrush regardless of supplement. Thus, supplemental protein did not improve sagebrush consumption. We conclude lambs readily ingested a high-energy ration containing sagebrush, regardless of exposure early in life, suggesting toxins, not flavor, control intake of sagebrush. Further, supplementing lambs with energy or protein failed to improve intake of sagebrush, which suggests these macronutrients did not enhance detoxification of sagebrush.
Burritt, Elizabeth A.; Banner, Roger E.; Provenza, Frederick D. 2000. Sagebrush Ingestion by Lambs: Effects of Experience and Macronutrients. Journal of Range Management 53(1): 91-96.