Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Proceedings of the 2002 Western Alfalfa Symposium, Reno NV


University of Calfornia, Davis

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



Consider the following scenarios: To cut the costs of ranching a researcher explores feeding cattle ammoniated straw in winter. Some of the cows maintain themselves on the diet while others lose weight, produce less milk and fail to conceive. A producer in Missouri plants a pasture rich in legumes and high in crude protein, yet his cattle prefer moldy hay and endophyte infected tall fescue to the legumes. Why do animals behave this way? Animals are thought to prefer foods that are palatable but what is palatability? We define palatability as the interrelationship between a food's flavor and postingestive feedback from nutrients and toxins in the food. Palatability is further influenced by an animal’s current nutritional state and its experiences with the food. Animals form preferences for foods that are high in nutrients and low in toxins. Furthermore, they prefer foods that are familiar especially those eaten early in life. Lastly, each animal’s nutritional needs are unique thus they perform best when they are provided with a variety of foods that allow them to balance their own diets.