Effect of Experience on the Foraging Skill of Lambs: Importance of Plant Form
Applied Animal Behavior Science
Livestock moved often from one area to another are required to forage on plants of different life form. The degree to which experience foraging on one plant form affects foraging performance on another plant form is unknown. We compared the foraging skills of grass- vs. shrub-experienced lambs on monocultures of mature crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum × Agropyron desertorum) and the shrub serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia). Grass-experienced lambs were more successful (P<0.05) at prehending (99% vs. 85% success) and ingesting (4.6 vs. 3.7 g min−1) grass than shrub-experienced lambs. Grass bite rate (16 vs. 14 bites min−1) and bite size (0.30 vs. 0.28 g per bite) were also greater but insignificantly so (P<0.05). Conversely, shrub-experienced lambs were numerically, but not statistically (P>0.05), more successful than grass-experienced lambs at prehending (93% vs. 86% success) and ingesting (5.0 vs. 4.5 g min−1) shrub. Shrub-experienced lambs had a higher (P<0.05) bite rate (26 vs. 20 bites min−1) than grass-experienced lambs when ingesting shrub, but bite size (0.20 vs. 0.23 g per bite) was similar (P>0.05). We conclude that the skills acquired by foraging on one plant form are to an important extent specific to that plant form. However, grass-experienced lambs foraging on shrubs were aided more than shrub-experienced lambs foraging on grass by their respective experiences.
Flores, Enrique R.; Provenza, Frederick D.; Balph, David F. 1988. Effect of Experience on the Foraging Skill of Lambs: Importance of Plant Form. Applied Animal Behavior Science 23(4): 285-291.