Groups of Merino lambs, with or without their mothers, were exposed to whole grain wheat for periods ranging from 5 to 45 hours at different ages before weaning at 10 weeks. Acceptance of wheat was tested during the following week. Feeding behaviour was monitored during exposure periods and both behaviour and intake were recorded during 30 minute test periods on each of 5 days in week 11. Groups of lambs exposed together with their mothers, which regularly ate wheat, all ate; their intakes averaged 810 g/head over the test period. Another group, also exposed with their mothers, but mothers which had been first offered wheat during the week before exposure, all ate wheat; their intakes averaged 290 g/head. Most lambs exposed without their mothers ate very little or no wheat in the post-weaning test period. The results show that pre-weaning experiences, particularly those related to maternal or other adult influences, are strong determinants of feeding behaviour, at least in the short term. Post-weaning acceptance of wheat was not obviously affected by age when exposed, duration of exposure, or interval from exposure to testing. The practical implications of these results are discussed.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 42, , 65-68, 1982
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