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Journal of Animal Science Abstract - Pharmacology and Toxicology

Effect of previous locoweed (Astragalus and Oxytropis species) intoxication on conditioned taste aversions in horses and sheep1


This article in

  1. Vol. 85 No. 7, p. 1836-1841
    Received: Jan 18, 2007
    Accepted: Apr 11, 2007
    Published: December 8, 2014

    2 Corresponding author(s):

  1. J. A. Pfister*2,
  2. B. L. Stegelmeier*,
  3. C. D. Cheney and
  4. D. R. Gardner*
  1. ARS—USDA, Logan, UT 84341;
    Department of Psychology, Utah State University, Logan 84322


Locoweed species (Astragalus and Oxytropis spp.) are a serious toxic plant problem for grazing livestock. Horses and sheep have been conditioned to avoid eating locoweed using the aversive agent LiCl. The objective of this study was to determine if previous locoweed intoxication affects food aversion learning in horses and sheep. Horses and sheep were divided into 3 treatment groups: control (not fed locoweed and not averted to a novel feed); locoweed-novel feed averted (fed locoweed and averted to a novel feed); and averted (not fed locoweed and averted to a novel feed). Animals in the locoweed-novel feed averted groups were fed locoweed during 2 periods of 21 and 14 d, respectively, with each feeding period followed by a 14-d recovery period. Animals were averted to a novel test feed at the end of the first locoweed-feeding period, and periodically evaluated for the strength and persistence of the aversion. During the first recovery period, locoweed-novel feed averted horses ate less (9.5% of amount offered) of the test feed than did control horses (99.8%) and did not generally differ from averted horses (0%). During recovery period 2, locoweed-novel feed averted horses (4.3%) differed (P = 0.001) in consumption (% of offered) of the test feed from controls (100%) and the averted group (0%). Locoweed-novel feed averted sheep differed (P = 0.001) from controls (14.4 vs. 99.5%, respectively, during recovery period 1), whereas locoweed-novel feed averted sheep did not differ (P > 0.50) from averted sheep (0.6%). During the second recovery period, control sheep (100%) differed (P < 0.05) from averted (0%) and locoweed-novel feed averted (12.2%) groups. Two intoxicated sheep (locoweed-novel feed averted) partially extinguished the aversion during the first recovery period, but an additional dose of LiCl restored the aversion. Two of 3 intoxicated horses had strong aversions that persisted without extinction; 1 horse in the locoweed-novel feed averted group had a weaker aversion. These findings suggest that horses and sheep previously intoxicated by locoweeds can form strong and persistent aversions to a novel feed, but in some animals, those aversions may not be as strong as in animals that were never intoxicated.

Copyright © 2007. Copyright 2007 Journal of Animal Science