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Learned behaviours lead to bone ingestion by phosphorus-deficient cattle

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Dixon, R. M., Fletcher, M. T., Goodwin, K. L., Reid, D. J., McNeill, D. M., Yong, K. W. L. and Petherick, J. C. (2019) Learned behaviours lead to bone ingestion by phosphorus-deficient cattle. Animal Production Science, 59 . pp. 921-932.


Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1071/AN17251

Publisher URL: https://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/AN17251


Grazing cattle deficient in phosphorus (P) often seek out and chew bones, apparently to obtain dietary P. To investigate this phenomenon heifers naïve to P deficiency were either fed a P-deficient diet (LowP) or grazed P-adequate pasture (AdeqP), and preference tests examined their attraction to weathered bones or a control of wood. During Phase 1 (Days 1–145), the LowP heifers developed severe P deficiency and pica, but demonstrated little attraction to weathered bones. During Phase 2 (Days 146–155), heifers were allowed to interact with and to chew a variety of weathered bones. After this experience LowP heifers were more attracted to bones during Phase 3 (Days 156–166) than during Phase 1 (P < 0.05), and more attracted than AdeqP heifers during either phase. Subsequently, in Phase 4 (Days 167–171), LowP heifers were more attracted than AdeqP heifers (P < 0.01) to weathered bones than to a control of wood, and in Phase 5 (Days 172–176) to bones with more extended weathering. During Phase 6 (Days 177–182), attraction was reduced when bones were placed inside a cloth bag. The olfactory constituents from weathered bones were dominated by aliphatic aldehydes and ketones, consistent with long-chain fatty acid breakdown. It was concluded that attraction of P-deficient cattle to seek and ingest bones is primarily a learned response. Smell, taste and visual appearance all appear to be important cues for attraction. Pica is likely important in causing P-deficient cattle to investigate unusual materials, including bones, resulting in cattle learning by making an association between bone chewing and P ingestion.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Animal Science, Biosecurity Queensland
Additional Information:Reproduced with permission from © CSIRO Publishing. Access to published version is available via Publisher’s website.
Keywords:bone chewing, learned behaviour, phosphorus deficiency, post-ingestive feedback.
Subjects:Animal culture > Cattle
Animal culture > Rangelands. Range management. Grazing
Animal culture > Feeds and feeding. Animal nutrition
Live Archive:20 Nov 2018 03:32
Last Modified:17 May 2022 06:03

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