• Association of food quality and locations by cattle

      Bailey, D. W.; Sims, P. L. (Society for Range Management, 1998-01-01)
      Twelve yearling steers were observed in an 8-arm radial maze to determine the strength of the association between food quality and spatial locations following a 0- or 30-day delay. The study was conducted using 3 qualities of feed, low (straw), medium (alfalfa pellets), and high (grain). During phase 1, all 8 arms contained dehydrated alfalfa pellets. In phase 2, steers were fed either grain or wheat straw, in 2 arms (key arms). The remaining 6 arms contained alfalfa pellets. Six steers received straw in key arms, and 6 received grain. Key arms varied among steers and were selected so a change in arm selection patterns between phases would clearly be associated with corresponding changes in food quality. Straw was placed in arms that steers selected first during phase 1, and grain was placed in arms that were selected last in phase 1. Phase 3 began after a 0- or 30-day delay following phase 2. In this phase, all arms contained alfalfa. Steers rarely reentered a previously entered arm indicating an accurate spatial memory for food location. The sequence of arm selections in phase 2 changed (P < 0.05) from the pattern established in phase 1, which demonstrated that cattle can associate food quality with spatial locations. The delay between phase 2 and 3 did not affect (P > 0.05) the selection patterns of steers that had grain in key arms, but did appear to affect the number and sequence of arm entries for steers receiving low quality food in key arms during phase 2. With no delay, steers that received straw in phase 2 did not enter key arms on the first day of phase 3, but after 30 days animals entered and consumed food in key arms. Steers with no delay entered key arms fewer (P = 0.03) times during phase 3 than steers that began 30 days later. This suggests that strength of the association between food quality and spatial locations can decline over time.