Redberry (Juniperus pinchotii Sudw.) and ashe (Juniperus ashei Buchh.) juniper dominate rangelands throughout central Texas. Our objective was to attempt to improve the efficacy of goats as a biological control mechanism for juniper through behavioral training. Conditioning sheep and goats to increase the palatability of chemically defended plants can be a useful tool in brush control. Previous research illustrated that goats can be conditioned to consume more juniper while in individual pens when foraging choices are limited. To test whether this creates a longer-lasting increase in juniper preference, we determined if goats would continue to consume juniper on pasture for one year after being fed juniper in individual pens for 14 d. Female Boer-cross goats (n = 40) were randomly divided into two treatments: conditioned and naive to juniper. At approximately 12 mo of age, conditioned goats were placed in individual pens and fed redberry juniper 1 h daily for 14 d, while naive goats received only alfalfa pellets to meet maintenance requirements. After the pen-feeding phase of the study, goats were placed in one of four pastures (10 goats · pasture−1) for 12 mo. Two pastures housed conditioned goats, and two pastures housed naive goats at a moderate stocking rate (1 animal unit · yr−1 · 8 ha−1). Bite count surveys were conducted twice per month, while herbaceous standing crop and monoterpene levels were measured once per month. Juniper preference varied monthly; however, conditioned goats consistently ate more (P < 0.05) juniper than naive goats except for April, when the study began, and March, when the study ended. When selection of herbaceous forages decreased, conditioned goats increased selection of juniper, while naive goats increased selection of other palatable shrubs. Seasonal changes of monoterpene levels in juniper had no apparent effect on juniper preference. We contend that feeding juniper at weaning will increase use of the plant in grazing situations.
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Vol. 63 • No. 3