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Journal of Animal Science

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We hypothesized that toxins and nutrients in foods interact to influence foraging behavior by herbivores. Based on this hypothesis we predicted that 1) terpenes in big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) influence intake and preference in sheep for diets varying in sources of nonstructural (barley grain) and structural (sugar beet pulp) carbohydrates, and 2) these effects are due to the differential effects of terpenes on fermentation products and apparent digestibility of each class of carbohydrates. Lambs were fed 2 isoenergetic and isonitrogenous diets with varying proportions of the same ingredients (beet pulp- and barley grain-based diet) or offered a choice between the 2 diets; all feeds were fed without and with terpenes, in consecutive periods. We also compared intake and preference of the beet pulp- and barley-based diets before and after the lambs ate a meal of sagebrush. Finally, we assessed the effect of terpenes on ruminal variables and in vivo digestibility. Lambs ate less when fed beet pulp or when they were offered a choice of diets with terpenes (P < 0.001), and intake of the beet pulp-based diet was the most affected (P < 0.05). Lambs preferred the beet pulp- to the grain-based diet with terpenes, but their preference reversed when terpenes were removed from the diets (P < 0.05). When lambs were offered both diets, intake and preference did not differ (P > 0.20) before eating sagebrush, but they preferred the beet pulp-based diet after eating sagebrush (P < 0.05). Intake of sagebrush did not differ among groups consuming the test diets (P = 0.21). Addition of terpenes to both diets increased the digestibility of DM, NDF, and ADF and decreased concentrations of total VFA and acetate (P < 0.05). Terpenes also depressed butyrate concentration in the barley-based diet (P < 0.05). Propionate concentrations were not affected by terpenes in either feed (P = 0.63). In summary, the predominant type of feed ingredient (beet pulp, grain) ingested with terpenes influenced fermentation products, intake, and preference in lambs. The source of energy from supplements, or other plants in the diet, is likely to influence intake and preference for sagebrush in sheep foraging on rangelands. Moreover, ingesting terpenes from sagebrush may also influence intake and preference for other plant species or supplements.

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