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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 48(7)

Preweaning feed exposure and different feed delivery systems to enhance feed acceptance of sheep

D. B. Savage A E, D. M. Ferguson B, A. D. Fisher B, G. N. Hinch A, D. G. Mayer C, E. Duflou D, J. M. Lea B, N. D. Baillie A, M. Raue A

A School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.
B CSIRO Livestock Industries, Locked Bag 1, Armidale, NSW 2350, Australia.
C Queensland Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, Yeerongpilly, Qld 4105, Australia.
D Institut National Agronomique de Paris-Grignon, 75 231 Paris Cédex 05, France.
E Corresponding author. Email: Darryl.Savage@une.edu.au
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Prior exposure of sheep to a novel feed has been shown to expedite the acceptance of that feed later in life. This study was designed to investigate the benefits of early social transmission of feed recognition for productivity and feeding behaviour of sheep in a feedlot. On a research farm near Armidale, Australia, 175 12-week-old Merino × Dorset lambs, together with their dams, were exposed to one of three preweaning treatments: (i) no exposure to feedlot pellets, (ii) offered feedlot pellets on the pasture, or (iii) offered feedlot pellets in feed troughs. The feedlot pellets were offered on two occasions at a rate of 200 g/dam, 1 month before weaning. After weaning, from 18 weeks of age, the lambs were observed for feeding behaviour and their growth during a 50-day feedlot finishing phase. Preweaning exposure to the pellets and the feed delivery system increased the rate of feed acceptance; however, there was no difference in the growth of lambs between the preweaning treatments at the end of the feedlot phase. The difference in percentage of lambs not eating between treatment groups was most pronounced during the first 2 days of the feeding period, with the differences gradually diminishing over the initial week of the feedlot phase. It is considered that differences in feedlot performance due to rate of acceptance of novel feeds are more likely under commercial conditions where pen densities are higher and feed ration transitions may be more rapid.

Keywords: lamb growth, shy feeding, feedlot entry weight.

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