• Social facilitation influences cattle to graze locoweed

      Ralphs, M. H.; Graham, D.; James, L. F. (Society for Range Management, 1994-03-01)
      Many ranchers claim that if a cow starts eating locoweed, she will teach others to eat it. Three grazing trials were conducted to evaluate the role of social facilitation in starting cattle to graze locoweed. The first trial was conducted near Gladstone, N.M., using mature cows grazing woolly locoweed (Astragalus mollissimus var. mollissimus Torr). The second trial was conducted on the Raft River Mountains in northwestern Utah, using yearling cattle grazing white locoweed (Oxytropis sericea Nutt). The third trial was conducted to determine if aversion-conditioned yearling cattle would consume white locoweed when placed with cattle that were eating locoweed (loco-eaters). Cattle conditioned to eat locoweed and naive animals in trials 1 and 2 first grazed in separate pastures to evaluate their initial acceptance of locoweed. The groups in the respective trials then were placed together to evaluate the influence of social facilitation on locoweed consumption. Locoweed consumption was quantified by bite count. Naive cattle in trials 1 and 2 sampled small quantities of locoweed while grazing separately. However, they greatly increased locoweed consumption when placed with the loco-eaters. Aversion-conditioned cattle in trial 3 did not consume locoweed while grazing separately. When placed with loco-eaters, they gradually increased consumption of white locoweed, in contrast to the immediate acceptance of locoweed by naive cattle in trials 1 and 2. The aversion extinguished and averted animals eventually accepted white locoweed at levels comparable to loco-eaters. Results of this study demonstrate that social facilitation can cause cattle to start eating locoweed.