Using Experience and Supplementation to Increase Juniper Consumption by Three Different Breeds of Sheep

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Abstract

In the southwestern United States, redberry (Juniperus pinchotii Sudw.) and ashe (Juniperus ashei Buchholz) juniper are two invasive species that dominate some rangelands. Goats will consume up to 30% of their diet in juniper, but it is unknown if sheep will accept juniper to the same extent. The objectives of this study were to determine if sheep can be conditioned to consume juniper and to compare intake among different breeds. Rambouillet (n=10), Suffolk (n=10), and Dorper-cross (n=10) lambs were randomly placed in individual pens for 31 d. A basal diet of alfalfa pellets (2.5% body weight [BW]) and juniper were fed. Juniper was fed each morning from 0800 to 0830 hours. The basal diet was fed for the remainder of the day. Intake of each was measured daily. Following the first 17 d, the basal diet was reduced to 2% BW for 7 d and then reduced to 1.5% BW for the final 7 d. Serum aspartate transaminase (AST), gamma glutamyltransferase (GGT), blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, and bilirubin levels, and live body weight were measured to assess any adverse physiological effects from juniper consumption. In a second trial, lambs were again fed alfalfa (2.5% BW) and juniper. One half of the lambs were also fed a 36% protein supplement to determine if supplementation with protein sources that escape rumen degradation would improve juniper consumption. Lambs received alfalfa, juniper, and protein supplement for 22 d with intake of each recorded daily. Intake of juniper was similar (P > 0.05) among breeds of sheep. Lambs readily consumed juniper and increased (P < 0.05) intake of juniper as the amount of alfalfa fed was reduced. Weight change was also similar among treatments. Protein supplementation did not improve juniper consumption. We contend that sheep will consume a diet consisting of 24% juniper without experiencing any adverse effects.

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