Optimisation or satiation, testing diet selection rules in goats

D.A.W.A.M. Jansen, F. van Langevelde, W.F. de Boer, K.P. Kirkman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Several hypotheses have been formulated to explain diet selection by herbivores, focusing on the maximization of nutrient intake, the minimization of plant secondary compounds, or the satiety hypothesis. This research aimed at studying diet selection revealing which chemical characteristics of plants form the bases for dietary preferences of goats. This was done by setting up a feeding experiment with three different combinations of tree species Acacia karroo, A. nilotica and A. sieberana. The chemical characteristics of these three Acacia species were used to predict diet selection. To test the validity of the satiety hypothesis, goats were placed on a conditioning diet of one of the three species. We found a clear preference for A. karroo and an avoidance of A. nilotica when these two were offered to the goats. In trials where A. nilotica was present, tannin minimization was the best explaining diet selection rule. In trials where A. nilotica was not present, however, tannin minimization was not the best explanation. Our findings suggest that tannins are not avoided but kept below a certain threshold. Below this threshold, goats based their dietary choices on other chemical characteristics of the Acacia species. Acid detergent fibre (ADF) minimization could then best explain preferences in trials with Acacia karroo and A. sieberana that have generally low tannin content. Goats did not maximize nutrient intake or digestibility, and we found no support for the satiety hypothesis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-168
JournalSmall Ruminant Research
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • plant secondary compounds
  • south-african savanna
  • varied diets
  • browsing ruminants
  • acacia-nilotica
  • woody-plants
  • tannin
  • metabolites
  • sheep
  • foods


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