Sheep are helping scientist to find superior pasture plants

CSIRO scientists are looking for plants of high nutritional quality that can be used to supplement the diets of livestock.

There are 80,000 potential plant species that need screening, kind of like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Sheep are very good at selected plant species that are good for them, and at avoiding ones that are toxic. Therefore, the scientists decided to let the sheep do the screening of the plants. The plants that the sheep selected were also tested in the laboratory. It turned out that the sheep preferred plants that were highly digestible, high in protein and low in salt.

The combination of the nutritional wisdom of sheep with traditional agronomy has led to the identification of plants that grow faster and are appetizing to sheep.

The plant species picked by the sheep could be used to buffer the impact of droughts and therefore improve the livelihoods of many small farmers and their animals worldwide.

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