Preference for Polyethylene Glycol by Sheep fed a Quebracho Tannin Diet

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Preference for Polyethylene Glycol by Sheep Fed a Quebracho Tannin Diet

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Tannins decrease food intake by reducing digestion and by causing illness, whereas polyethylene glycol (PEG) attenuates the aversive effects of tannins. Our objective was to determine whether sheep recognize the benefits of ingesting substances such as PEG when consuming tannins. If so, then ingestion of PEG should be 1) PEG-specific, 2) a function of previous experience with recovery from tannin-toxicosis, and 3) dependent on the presence/absence of tannins. During conditioning, lambs in Group 1 (n = 10) were offered a meal of high-tannin food, which presumably caused malaise, and then offered PEG (molecular weight, 3,350), which presumably led to recovery from malaise. Subsequently, lambs ingested a control food (wheat straw) that did not have the "medicinal" effects of PEG in the absence of the tannin diet. In contrast, lambs in Group 2 (n = 10) ingested PEG in the absence of the tannin diet, and they ingested the tannin diet only in association with wheat straw. Ingestion of PEG and straw by both groups of lambs increased as a function of the presence of tannins in the diet (P < 0.05). However, when offered a choice among the tannin diet, PEG and straw, or when given the tannin diet and then offered a choice between PEG and straw, lambs trained to associate PEG with tannins ate more PEG than lambs that ingested PEG without tannins (P < 0.05). The responses were apparently PEG-specific; straw intake did not differ between groups of lambs during testing (P > 0.05), and differences in PEG intake disappeared in the absence of tannins (P > 0.05). In summary, our results suggest that lambs fed high-tannin diets discriminated the effects of PEG from those provided by a "nonmedicinal" food (straw). Thus, it may be possible to formulate PEG supplements that allow herbivores to self-regulate intake of PEG under extensive management conditions.

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