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Effects of early experience and alternative feeds on medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae ssp. asperum) intake by sheep

By Juan J. Montes-Sánchez, Juan J. Villalba

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Abstract

The goals of this study were to test the effects of early experience at grazing medusahead – an invasive unpalatable weed – and the availability of forage alternatives on intake of medusahead later in life by sheep. The study involved two experiments of 10 days each. During Experiment 1, 29 yearling sheep were penned individually in a 2×2 factorial design with early experience at grazing medusahead (yes [n=15], no [n=14]) and alfalfa hay availability (yes, no) as the main factors. All animals were fed ad libitum amounts of freshly harvested medusahead daily from 10:00 to 13:00h; additionally, eight experienced and seven inexperienced sheep received alfalfa hay (0.31% body weight) at the same time. All groups had a basal diet of tall fescue hay. Intake of the forages, NaCl and trace-mineralized salt blocks was measured. In Experiment 2, sheep were then clustered into nine groups of three yearlings each (n=5 early experience; n=4 experience gained during Experiment 1) and one group of two yearlings (experience gained during Experiment 1) and grazed 10 plots of medusahead-infested rangeland. Grazing events were recorded daily at 5min intervals from 08:30 to 11:00h and from 16:00 to 17:00h, and the defoliation proportion of medusahead tillers was determined every five days. During Experiment 1, medusahead intake was not affected by early experience or alfalfa availability (P>0.05) but medusahead intake across days was cyclic with more pronounced intake peaks at the beginning and end of the experiment for inexperienced animals (P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 188
Pages 9-16
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2016.12.014
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Tags
  1. Diets
  2. Feed preferences
  3. Grazing
  4. weed control