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Dietary habits and social interactions affect choice of feeding location by sheep

By C. B. Scott, F. D. Provenza, R. E. Banner

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12 lambs that had been reared together were separated into 2 groups of 6 lambs; groups were conditioned to prefer sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) or wheat (Triticum aestivum) grains by feeding for 14 days. Lambs were conditioned to avoid the other grain by administering a mild dose of lithium chloride after its ingestion on 3 consecutive days. During testing, sorghum and wheat were placed at opposite ends of a 0.25-ha pasture. Lambs were first allowed to feed as groups consisting of 3 lambs that preferred sorghum and 3 lambs that preferred wheat, and then allowed to feed as groups in which 1 lamb preferred sorghum and 3 lambs that preferred wheat, and vice versa. Under all conditions, lambs always fed on their preferred feed, even when the locations of the feeds were switched. The study was repeated using a larger pasture (1 ha) and without the use of LiCl. Lambs were reared in 3 groups and fed on sorghum (group 1), wheat (group 2), or half of the lambs were fed on sorghum and the other half wheat (group 3) for 4 months to condition a preference for sorghum or wheat. When lambs that preferred sorghum (group 1) were mixed with lambs that preferred wheat (group 2), lambs grazed in different locations. However, in group 3, some lambs that preferred wheat grazed in the vicinity while peers ate sorghum, whereas lambs that preferred sorghum grazed in the vicinity while peers ate wheat. In a few cases, 1 or 2 lambs separated from the rest of the group and ate their preferred grain. It is concluded that feed preference had a primary influence on choice of foraging location when lambs were reared separately and preferred different feeds. Feed preferences and social interactions influenced choice of foraging location in sheep reared together, unless animals were made averse to one of the feeds with LiCl.

Date 1995
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 45
Issue 3-4
Pages 225-237
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Department of Rangeland Resources, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-5230, USA.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal nutrition
  3. Feeding
  4. Feeding behavior
  5. Feed preferences
  6. Grains
  7. Grasses
  8. Habits
  9. Interactions
  10. Lambs
  11. Learning ability
  12. Learning capacity
  13. Mammals
  14. peer-reviewed
  15. Plants
  16. Sheep
  17. Social behavior
  1. peer-reviewed