Short periods of prior exposure can increase the intake by sheep of a woody forage shrub, Rhagodia preissii

R. H. Wallis, D. T. Thomas, E. J. Speijers, P. E. Vercoe, D. K. Revell

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Rhagodia preissii (Moq.) is a woody perennial shrub that is being investigated as a forage plant for livestock but some uncertainty about its potential exists because of its low acceptance and variable intake by sheep. Initial evidence suggests that sheep may avoid the plant due to its novelty, or due to a deterrent plant compound that might be reduced with drying. This study investigated the hypotheses that (1) a low preference for, and intake of, R. preissii is due to neophobia (fear of novelty) and can be overcome by training and (2) drying R. preissii plant material will increase its preference. Thirty-six 12-month-old Merino ewe lambs were divided into control and treatment groups and given different feed training experiences over 10 days. The treatments were exposure to R. preissii either as a feed (forage) or as a pulp via oral drenching, or exposure to other novel feeds. Sheep that had been exposed to R. preissii forage during training increased their intake of R. preissii during subsequent feed preference tests by at least eight fold (P<0.05). However, training did not increase the relative preference for (or against) R. preissii when it was offered in combination with another feed. The intake of R. preissii was not affected by the form (dry or fresh) in which it was offered but, overall, preference was higher for dry R. preissii over fresh (P<0.001). The effect of training on intake of R. preissii varied greatly among individual sheep. This study demonstrated that avoidance of R. preissii is at least partially due to neophobia, which can be reduced with training to novel feeds that include R. preissii itself. However, the overall reluctance of sheep to eat R. preissii might also indicate the presence of an anti-nutritional factor that could be associated with a taste or odour that serves as a deterrent. 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-288
Number of pages9
JournalSmall Ruminant Research
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


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