Early Experience with Diverse Foods Increases Intake of Non-Familiar Flavors and Feeds in Sheep

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Journal of Animal Science






American Society of Animal Science

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This study determined whether early experiences by sheep with monotonous or diverse diets influence intake of unfamiliar flavors and feeds later in life. Thirty 2-mo-old lambs were randomly assigned to 3 treatment diets (n = 10): diverse (DIV), diverse with plant toxins (DIV+T), and monotonous (MON). Lambs in DIV received in 9 successive periods of exposure 4-way choice combinations of 2 foods high in energy and 2 foods high in protein from an array of 6 foods: 3 high in energy [beet pulp, oat grain, and a mix of milo:grape pomace (60:40)] and 3 high in digestible protein (DP) (soybean meal, alfalfa, corn gluten meal). Lambs in DIV+T received the same exposure as DIV, but 2 plant toxins, oxalic acid (1.5%) and quebracho tannins (10%), were randomly added to 2 of the feeds in each of the choice combinations. Lambs in MON received a monotonous balanced diet, made with a mixture of all 6 feeds detailed before. All treatments received their feed in 4 separate buckets. During exposure, treatments did not differ in total daily DMI (P = 0.31), but daily intake of ME was less (P < 0.02) and daily intake of DP was greater (P < 0.03) for lambs in DIV and DIV+T than for lambs in MON. Treatments did not differ in ADG or G:F (P > 0.05). After exposure, lambs were offered a familiar feed (wheat bran) containing novel flavors (maple, garlic, or bitter) and 2-way choices of novel feeds (fescue hay vs. corn distillers grains, rice vs. calf manna, and green peas vs. rolled oats). Intake of maple-flavored wheat bran tended (P = 0.08) to be greater for lambs in DIV than for lambs in DIV+T and MON. Intake of bitter-flavored and garlic-flavored wheat bran were greater (P = 0.03 and P = 0.04, respectively) for lambs in DIV and DIV+T than for lambs in MON. During 2-way choice trials, lambs in DIV, but not in DIV+T, showed greater intakes of fescue hay (P = 0.05) and rice (P = 0.04) than lambs in MON. Intake of green peas was greater (P = 0.03) for lambs in DIV and DIV+T than for lambs in MON. At the end of testing, lambs in DIV but not in DIV+T showed greater ADG than lambs in MON (P = 0.05). Thus, early exposure to diverse foods enhanced acceptance of novel flavors relative to early exposure to a monotonous ration. Early experience with diverse feeds plus plant toxins led to a less diverse diet than early experience with diverse feeds. Early exposure to diverse feeds may be beneficial in production systems that require rapid acceptance and high intake of unfamiliar feeds.

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