Experience with Blackbrush Affects Ingestion of Shrub Live Oak by Goats

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Journal of Animal Science

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Generalization occurs when an animal responds to novel stimuli in much the same way it has responded to similar, familiar stimuli. Our objective was to determine whether goats generalized foraging skills from older growth blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima) to shrub live oak (Quercus turbinella). Blackbrush (OGBB) has small leaves that are difficult to ingest without the twigs, whereas shrub live oak (SLO) has larger leaves that can be ingested easily without twigs. In Yr 1, 6-mo-old goats and in Yr 2 18-mo-old goats were given experience browsing with OGBB for 0, 10, 20, or 30 d. They were next tested for 5 min/d for 2 d on OGBB, and then tested in the same way on SLO. The number of bites and bite rate increased significantly as goats of both ages gained experience browsing OGBB. Likewise, goats with more experience browsing OGBB took more bites during a 5-min period when foraging on SLO. Thus, goats generalized foraging skills from OGBB to SLO. Plant life form also affected the response of goats. Total intake, intake rate, and bite size were significantly higher for SLO than for OGBB. There was an interaction between level of experience and plant life form. The interaction occurred because goats with no experience browsing OGBB took more bites per 5 min of SLO than of OGBB, whereas goats with increasing levels of experience browsing OGBB generally took more bites of OGBB than of SLO. Controls took more bites per 5 min of SLO than of OGBB, because SLO leaves could be ingested (harvested and chewed) more easily than OGBB twigs.

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