The University of Arizona

Rearing conditions for lambs may increase tansy ragwort grazing.

R.D. Sutherland, K. Betteridge, R.A. Fordham, K.J. Stafford, D.A. Costall


Grazing by sheep is an accepted method of controlling tansy ragwort (Senecio jacobaea L.), but some flock members seldom eat it. Our objectives were to determine if pre-weaning exposure to tansy ragwort increases later consumption of the plant by lambs, and if confinement with ragwort-eating ewes after weaning facilitates ragwort eating. The sampling periods were Weeks 1, 3, and 12 following weaning. During each period grazing behavior was observed for 1-hour each day and the 24-hour reduction in ragwort volume measured on each of 4 or 5 consecutive days. Lambs exposed to ragwort before weaning removed more ragwort than ragwort-naive lambs during the first 2 sampling periods (P < 0.05). Lambs that grazed with ewes for 11 weeks following weaning ate ragwort more frequently during direct observation, than lambs without ewes during Weeks 3 and 12 (P < 0.05). The ragwort-eating of all lamb groups increased markedly between Weeks 1 and 12 (P < 0.05). This may indicate an increased ability of lambs to consume ragwort with increasing age or an acclimation period during which most lambs come to accept ragwort. Behavioral interventions aimed at increasing the consumption of weeds by lambs may need to take into account age-related differences in toxin tolerances. Exposing lambs to ragwort before weaning and grazing newly-weaned lambs with older ragwort-eating sheep after weaning may increase later ragwort-eating by lambs.



Senecio jacobaea;social behavior;social facilitation;lambs;ewes;weed control;selective grazing;biomass;feeding preferences

Full Text: