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CitationWalker, J. W., Hemenway, K. G., Hatfield, P. G., & Glimp, H. A. (1992). Training lambs to be weed eaters: Studies with leafy spurge. Journal of Range Management, 45(3), 245-249.
PublisherSociety for Range Management
JournalJournal of Range Management
AbstractThe objective of the study was to determine if exposure of young lambs to leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula L.) would increase the consumption of this plant. Orphan lambs were exposed to leafy spurge from birth to 11 weeks of age as a water soluble extract mixed with milk replacer and as freshly harvested plants. Ewe-reared lambs were exposed to leafy spurge by grazing them on a leafy spurge-infested pasture. Study 1 investigated the consumption of vegetative and flowering leafy spurge paired with arrowleaf balsam root (Balsamorhiza sagittata (Pursh) Nutt.) by orphan lambs during a 30-min feeding period. Experienced lambs consumed a higher percentage leafy spurge than naive lambs (P<0.03). The interaction of leafy spurge phenophase and previous experience (P<0.02) showed that experienced lambs preferred leafy spurge regardless of phenophase (70% of intake) and naive lambs only preferred leafy spurge when it was vegetative. Study 2 investigated the preference for leafy spurge on pastures with high or low leafy spurge biomass. Experienced compared to naive lambs had a higher percentage of bites (P<0.001) and preferred leafy spurge in the high spurge biomass pasture, but not in low biomass pastures. Naive lambs avoided leafy spurge in both pastures. Study 3 was a pasture trial that investigated spurge consumption by orphan and ewe-reared lambs. Percent bites and time spent grazing leafy spurge were not affected (P>0.23) by previous exposure, but daily herbage removal was greater (P<0.09) in pastures grazed by experienced compared to naive lambs (876 vs. 685 g/lamb, respectively). Experienced ewe-reared lambs had a higher rate of biting on leafy spurge (P<0.06) than naive or orphan Lambs. These studies indicate that previous experience will be an important factor affecting the use of sheep as a biological control agent for leafy spurge.