An Animal’s Early Experience Outside Can Change Its Body Inside

Why do animals eat certain foods and live in certain locations? Your first thought might be that they are born that way or it’s in their genes. While it is true that every animal is born with a set of genes that helps determine how it looks and what it needs to survive, genetics are only part of the story. As an individual grows its body and physiology are shaped by experiences early in life. A calf reared on the shrub-dominated deserts of southern Utah is physically different from a calf reared in the marshes of Louisiana. Bison raised on shrub-dominated ranges in Alaska are physically different from bison raised on grasslands in Montana. Changes within the body enable animals to adapt to different environments. Changes in the Rumen While the body can change and adapt throughout life, early life experiences are most important. These experiences can change rumen structure and size. For example, 6-week old lambs were fed a barley protein diet for 2 weeks with their mothers. When the lambs were 5 months old, they had larger rumen papillae (the structures in the rumen that absorb nutrients), with 38% more surface area compared with lambs that were not exposed

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One thought on “An Animal’s Early Experience Outside Can Change Its Body Inside

  1. Great read, Beth. Utah State has done a lot of ground breaking research in this field.

    What Beth brought out with the sheep and goats also is the same for cows.

    Cows existed in the wild by eating everything available. that diversity kept her alive by eating plants with higher levels of protein to increase digestion of lower quality plants that contained energy. Cows are more capable than most can imagine. Let a cow be a cow. She knows what to do if she is not overfed.

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