The University of Arizona

Nutritive value and aversion of honey mesquite leaves to sheep.

R. Baptista, K.L. Launchbaugh


Honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr.) is an invasive native plant that is abundant in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. We initiated 2 studies to determine if: 1) mesquite could provide valuable forage for domestic herbivores; and 2) if mesquite causes conditioned flavor aversions in ruminants. An in vivo digestion trial was completed with 15 lambs assigned to diets of 0, 5, 10, 15, or 20% dried mesquite leaves mixed with alfalfa hay to measure effects of mesquite on intake and digestion. Proportions of mesquite leaves > 5% of the diet negatively affected dry matter (DM) intake, nitrogen (N) balance, energy balance and weight gain. Mesquite intake was highest at the 5% level averaging 1.81 g kg-1 body weight (BW), mesquite intake of the other mesquite-containing diets averaged 0.78 g kg-1 BW. Apparent digestibility was not affected by the level of mesquite in the diet. An in situ digestion trial did however, reveal that pure alfalfa was more digestible than mesquite leaves. A conditioned flavor aversion (CFA) trial tested the effect of post-ingestive feedback from mesquite on the intake of a novel food (rye). Lambs were offered rye and then ground mesquite was infused into their rumens by esophageal tube. Twenty one lambs were assigned to 3 dosing treatments: 0 (control), 3.0 (low), or 4.5 (high) g of mesquite per kg BW. Two days after dosing, lambs that received mesquite infusions ate less rye than controls indicating the formation of a CFA. The aversion to rye persisted for at least 2 days. The high dose of mesquite also decreased intake of the alfalfa basal ration for at least 3 days and resulted in persistent diarrhea in lambs. Chemical analysis of mesquite leaves revealed similar nutritive quality (crude protein, gross energy, and fiber) as mature alfalfa. However, to exploit the forage value of mesquite, the allelochemicals that cause flavor aversions and other negative digestive consequences need to be identified and overcome.



flavor;feed formulation;antinutritional factors;aversion;lambs;alfalfa;alfalfa hay;nitrogen balance;weed palatability;Prosopis glandulosa;liveweight gain;energy balance;responses;hay;digestibility;dry matter;feed intake;feeding preferences

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