• Food aversion learning to eliminate cattle consumption of pine needles

      Pfister, J. A. (Society for Range Management, 2000-11-01)
      Conditioned food aversions are a potentially useful tool to eliminate consumption of some toxic plants by livestock. This study examined consumption of pine needles (Pinus ponderosa Lawson) in South Dakota and Oregon by pregnant cattle. Averted cattle were conditioned to avoid green pine needles using a gastrointestinal emetic, lithium chloride; control (non-averted) animals were not treated. Averted and non-averted cattle were offered green pine needles during pen trials, and they were also grazed in pastures with abundant pine needles in 2 winter trials during 1997 and 1998. Averted cattle ate no green needles in pen trials in Oregon and South Dakota in either year; whereas, control cattle always ate some green needles during those tests. The 1997 South Dakota field trial was inconclusive: the averted cattle ate no needles and the control cattle ate almost no needles while grazing. In the 1998 Oregon field study, the averted cows began eating pine litter after 4 days in the pasture, and the aversion to green needles extinguished rapidly thereafter. In Oregon, controls ate more than 50% of their diet as pine needles, and particularly selected green needles from recently cut trees or branches. When the trial ended after 16 days, the controls and averted cattle were both eating about the same amount of green pine needles and dry needle litter even though they grazed in different pastures. Although averted to green needles, cattle did not appear to generalize the aversion from green needles to dry needle litter. Conditioning permanent aversions may require averting cattle to all forms of pine needles (i.e., green and dry) likely to be encountered in a pasture.