Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals

Food preferences of sheep

GD Hutson and SCvan Mourik

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture and Animal Husbandry 21(113) 575 - 582
Published: 1981


Sixty-two foods were offered to four sheep as a supplement to a maintenance diet of chaffed hay. The most attractive foods were grains and seeds, followed by processed cereals, fruit and vegetables, and sweets. Twelve of the most attractive foods were then offered in pairs to 12 sheep in a series of preference tests. All possible combinations of pairs were tested. The most highly preferred foods were barley, peas, wheat and a commercial horse ration. An operant conditioning technique was used to determine whether sheep would work to obtain a food reward. Six sheep were trained to press a panel to receive a food reward. The highest ratio of presses to rewards reached on a progressive fixed ratio schedule of reinforcement was used as a measure of reward strength. The highest rates of response were obtained with barley and wheat. Both barley and wheat appear to be highly preferred foods of sheep and would be suitable reinforcements to use in the development of a reward-based handling system for sheep.

© CSIRO 1981

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