Interactions Between Mild Nutrient Imbalance and Taste Preferences in Young Ruminants

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Journal of Animal Science

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Thirty-two crossbred lambs (BW = 31.2 ± 4.7 kg; 16 females, 16 males) housed in individual pens were used to investigate the relationship between nutrient supply and taste preferences in ruminants. Experiment 1 determined whether an imbalanced CP supply would alter preferences for feeds containing flavors designed to elicit either umami (U) or a mixture (1/3:1/3:1/3) of umami, sweet, and bitter (M) tastes. Lambs were randomly allocated to either a low (LP; 10.9% CP) or a high (HP; 20.4% CP) CP diet for 21 d. Afterward, lambs were presented during 21 d with a choice of the same LP or HP diet unflavored (LPC or HPC, respectively) or flavored (0.1% as fed) with U (LPU or HPU, respectively) or M (LPM or HPM). Experiment 2 determined the influence of CP status on preference for dietary CP, bitter taste, and sweet taste elicited by sucrose or a noncaloric sweetener. In test 1, sixteen lambs previously fed LP or HP for 42 d in Exp. 1 could choose between the HP and LP diets. In test 2, the remaining 16 lambs from Exp. 1 were offered a choice between unflavored LP or HP diets or the same diets flavored (0.066% as fed) with a bitter flavor. In test 3, the 16 lambs from test 1 were offered a choice between an unflavored diet (LP or HP) and the same diet flavored with sucrose (0.2%) or a noncaloric sweetener (0.066%). In Exp. 1, when offered a choice, all lambs showed a preference (P < 0.05) for the unflavored diet except for LP lambs, who clearly preferred (P< 0.05) LPU (72% of total DMI) over LPC. However, preference for LPU progressively decreased (P < 0.05) as time of exposure to the choice increased. In Exp. 2 (test 1), lambs previously fed LP progressively increased (P < 0.05) total DMI when presented with LP and HP, whereas consumption was constant for lambs previously fed HP and offered a choice of LP and HP diets. At the onset of test 2, lambs fed LP progressively reduced (P < 0.05) preference for the bitter flavor from 53 to 34%. In test 3, lambs previously fed LP diets consumed less (P < 0.05) sweetener- than sucrose-supplemented diet, whereas lambs previously offered HP diets consumed more sweetener- than sucrose-supplemented diet. In summary, protein-restricted lambs were able to differentiate and increase consumption of U-flavored feeds. However, this increase disappeared over time. These results indicate that lambs are able to sense dietary CP content and modulate short-term consumption of flavored feeds based on their nutrient requirements.

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