Food Flavor and Nutritional Characteristics Alter Dynamics of Food Preference in Lambs

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Journal of Animal Science

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We addressed two questions involving food preference. First, we determined how a food's flavor and nutritional characteristics affected preference. In three trials, we offered lambs isonitrogenous foods differing in energy (trial 1, 90% TDN; trial 2, 100% TDN; trial 3, 110% TDN); each food was offered in apple and maple flavors. We hypothesized that preference for apple- or maple-flavored food would decrease with increasing duration of exposure (1, 2, or 4 d), and we speculated that the change in preference would intensify when food contained inadequate or excessive levels of energy. After eating food in one flavor, lambs preferred the alternative flavor, even after only a 1-d exposure, and preference for the alternative flavor was greater when the food had inadequate or excessive energy (P < .05). The second experiment determined whether eating a food with rapidly or slowly digestible sources of energy in the morning affected lambs' food preferences in the evening. We speculated that lambs fed rapidly digestible food in the morning may prefer a slowly digestible food in the afternoon because slowly digestible food better maintains nutrient status throughout the night or because preference for the rapidly digestible food decreases after exposure in the morning. We offered lambs isonitrogenous and isocaloric foods, that differed in rates of digestion, in apple and maple flavors. Lambs fed rapidly digestible food in the morning preferred slowly digestible food in the alternative flavor in the evening. However, lambs fed slowly digestible food in either flavor in the morning preferred slowly digestible food in both flavors in the evening (P < .05). These results show that lambs' preferences change as a result of food ingestion, and the degree of change in preference depends on the nutritional characteristics of the food. These findings further suggest food intake might be increased by providing a variety of foods to livestock on rangelands, pastures, or in confinement.

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