Livestock feeding review reveals opportunity for better industry practice

May 1, 2015 by Timothy Oliver, Science Network WA
Livestock feeding review reveals opportunity for better industry practice
Dr Revell says a better understanding of the complex regulation of feeding behaviours can help promote feeding practices that optimise performance, resource use and welfare of grazing livestock. Credit: Jon Anderson

A better understanding of factors that influence feeding behaviours in ruminants could help improve management practices and provide better outcomes for the livestock industry.

Local researchers reviewed previous literature to determine how the integration of signals arising from the reward feeding system and metabolic regulation influence food selection and intake in domestic livestock.

CSIRO livestock researcher Dr Dean Revell says the research was designed to present a framework that showed how two major feeding regulatory systems, a reward system and homeostatic regulation, interact to influence feeding behaviour.

"What we tried to do was explain that there is really two forces at play and that they are absolutely linked," he says.

"Any given feeding behaviour reflects the current motivation of an individual; that motivation is a consequence of the integration over time of many factors including sensorial, metabolic and physiological signals.

"These things influence the decisions an animal makes about what it eats and therefore, with a grazing animal, where it goes as well.

"I guess on a more practical level once you understand that then you can identify ways in which you can influence things to modify eating behaviours in these animals for the better."

Dr Revell says a better understanding of the complex regulation of feeding behaviours can help promote practices that optimise performance, resource use and welfare of grazing livestock.

Self-herding option being investigated

"One application we're working on is a procedure called self-herding, using nutritional attraction to influence animals grazing in the rangelands of WA" he says.

"We can trigger the signals an animal gets to expect a reward—on the basis of their sensory perceptions of sight, smell and taste—to reinforce the motivation to consume a particular food."

"The animals can quickly learn an association between those cues and the metabolic and nutritional outcomes of consuming that particular food.

"We're using that in the rangelands to either retain animals in an area or encourage them to move into a new area."

Dr Revell says linking early experiences during pregnancy and early life—'metabolic memory' or 'foetal programming'—was also a key aspect of the review.

"There is evidence to suggest that metabolic signals received in the womb of the mother can be passed onto that offspring and shape how they perform into the future," he says.

"That's pretty amazing and a neat management tool as well."

Explore further: Directing cattle to graze on dry land: recommendations

More information: "Feeding behaviour in ruminants: a consequence of interactions between a reward system and the regulation of metabolic homeostasis." Animal Production Science 55(3) 247-260 dx.doi.org/10.1071/AN14481

Related Stories

Brain mechanisms of food reward

March 11, 2013

Studying what makes us want to eat, could help devise approaches to prevent obesity, which is becoming widespread in Europe

The neural basis of 'being in the mood'

February 12, 2015

What determines receptivity or rejection towards potential sexual partners? For people, there are many factors that play a part, appearance, culture, age, are all taken into account. But what part does the internal state ...

Recommended for you

Researchers come face to face with huge great white shark

January 18, 2019

Two shark researchers who came face to face with what could be one of the largest great whites ever recorded are using their encounter as an opportunity to push for legislation that would protect sharks in Hawaii.

Why do Hydra end up with just a single head?

January 18, 2019

Often considered immortal, the freshwater Hydra can regenerate any part of its body, a trait discovered by the Geneva naturalist Abraham Trembley nearly 300 years ago. Any fragment of its body containing a few thousands cells ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.