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The Effect of Diet on the Performance of Non-nutritive Oral Behaviors by Beef Cattle
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Cattle display oral stereotypic behavior in the form of non-nutritive oral behaviors (NNOB). Stereotypic NNOBs, hypothesized to be caused by dietary challenges, include tongue rolling, bar licking, and ground licking. The purpose of this research was to determine the impact of dietary factors (roughage inclusion and rumen modifier supplementation) on NNOB performance by beef cattle housed in feedyards. Upon the performance of a systematic review on the current state of research regarding the diet-NNOB relationship, literature indicated that experiments that manipulated the level of dietary roughage inclusion provided conclusive evidence that roughage level influences NNOB performance. Diets that altered other dietary factors (e.g. particle size, total feed amount, mineral addition, or ingredient type) did not conclusively elicit changes in NNOB performance. To further investigate roughage inclusion and NNOB performance, a study was performed on beef steers (n = 54) fed increasing levels of corn stalks (5%, 10% or 15%). Corn stalk inclusion did not alter NNOB performance nor was NNOB performance associated with production metrics; however, tongue rolling increased as duration of time spent ruminating decreased (P < 0.01) and activity, or movement, increased with tongue rolling and bar licking (P < 0.01). A second study evaluated the effect of live yeast supplementation during wheat substitution on tongue rolling and bar licking by beef steers (n = 24). Live focal observations and a Growsafe system were used to collect NNOB performance and feeding behavior data. Cattle not fed live yeast when consuming a high-concentrate diet performed tongue rolling more frequently that all other treatments (P = 0.05) and individuals, irrespective of treatment, with smaller meal sizes, lower daily feed intakes, and shorter duration feeding bouts all more frequently performed of tongue rolling (P = 0.05, P = 0.03, P = 0.05, respectively). Both studies showed that NNOB performance is variable over time. Results from the studies suggest NNOB performance may occur to compensate with the unfulfilled behavioral need ruminate and that live yeast may mitigate NNOB performance by cattle consuming high-concentrate diets.
Ridge, Emily Elizabeth (2019). The Effect of Diet on the Performance of Non-nutritive Oral Behaviors by Beef Cattle. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from